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Every year in the UK Black History month is celebrated with over 4,000 events taking place all over the country with groups organisations and individuals from all backgrounds taking part. In that respect, limelightmagazine.org as a group, of history enthusiasts forms part of a much more comprehensive effort of community and professional involvement in “Black History Month”. The Black history month movement had its origins in the United States when a black academic and historian Dr Carter G Woodson started it in 1926 originally as ‘Negro History week’ (a name given by Carter) at the height of Jim Crow and segregation. The son of a former slave and the second black to attend Harvard since W.E.B Dubois, he found that black history was overlooked, ignored and suppressed. He wrote “If you teach Negro that he has accomplished as much as any other race he aspires to equality and justice without regard to race”. During the American Bicentennial in 1976 ‘Negro History Week’ became ‘Black History Month’ as a result of the “Black Power Movement” influence in the 1960’s. The then president of the United States, President Gerald Ford, urged Americans to “Seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishment of black Americans in every endeavour throughout our history”. In the 1980’s it became “African American History Month” again to highlight changing perceptions around identity and race for black Americans. In the UK in the 1980’s the country under Thatcher was going through its own trauma with riots in Brixton, Tottenham, and Toxteth. Black Britain’s now found themselves fighting against marginalisation and racism, whilst defining a sense of identity and purpose. This was the context in which Black History Month was formed in the UK. The debate now centres around the ongoing nature of black history as something which must serve the community more than once a year for a month. It is call for government both local and national to support changes in perception on race through their offices, activities in schools, naming of parks and monuments highlighting the historical and contemporary heroes of African-and African Caribbean decent.
Dr Carter G Woodson PH.D
Founder of 'Negro History Week" 1926 now 'Black History Month'