Institute for the Study of Slavery

Blog: Black History Month is important but problematic

Black and white historical photograph of a young Black woman in a sun hat and dress stood beside a car. Other family members converse in the background.

As part of ISOS's Black History Month+ series Nancy Abdulay, a first year undergraduate in History here at the University of Nottingham, reflects on why Black History Month is important, but problematic too.  

Institutionalised racism has seeped its way into the UK and is failing to find its way out. 20,000 young Black men were stopped and searched during the Coronavirus lockdown period of 2020 alone. People from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities (BAME) make up 14% of the general population in the UK, however BAME males in young offender institutions make up 51% of the population and adult black men make up the majority in prison. This signifies the need for change and the need for acknowledgement that Black people in the UK as well as across other parts of the world are being failed. We need a change, and we need further acknowledgement of the needs of black people. This is why Black History Month is important.

Arguably, it is unsafe to be Black in any part of the world. In Western societies Black people live in fear of being discriminated against whether that be in education, jobs or in the case of Black men, walking around with a tracksuit on. In African and Caribbean nations there are countless issues for which awareness is currently being widened through the use of social media campaigns and various forms of protest. In Nigeria, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was originally created to tackle the robbery issues that Nigeria were facing in 1992, this has now been turned into a unit that thrive off of killing, harassing and torturing innocent citizens. In the Democratic Rebublic of Congo, civilians are being killed, raped and kidnapped everyday whilst children are being used as military recruits and being forced to mine in horrendous conditions. Caribbean countries such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have been experiencing crime rates which are comparable to countries in armed conflict. Children are being trafficked from Mali to work on cocoa farms as slaves in Ghana and these crimes against humanity that I have listed only touch the surface of the despicable treatment of Black People in the Caribbean and in Africa.

In this day and age, Black History Month is important to counteract the fact that typically when Black people appear in the media they are usually portrayed with a negative bias: for example Raheem Sterling’s tattoo dedicated to his father being misconstrued or Marcus Rashford simply trying to feed the kids in need in the UK and facing backlash with the idea voiced that if people want to eat they should simply ‘work harder for it’. Black people are suffering all across the world, thus it’s important that young black people today are able to see the positive influence that Black people have had and will continue to have in the world. Additionally, over the years black history is being taught inconsistently in the UK school curriculum therefore it is extremely important for people to be able to know about the benefits that Black people have brought to the world.

On the other hand, Black History Month lacks in the sense that there is only one dedicated month across western nations to celebrate and commemorate Black people and culture as well as think about the issues that black people are facing when it is necessary to think about this everyday throughout the year —  now more than ever due to the billions of people who are in danger across the world due to the colour of their skin.

Black History Month 2020 holds a lot of significance as we need to come together as a community now more than ever. We all need to honour this time to come together and educate ourselves further for the better of the future.

Nancy Abdulay, Undergraduate in the Department of History


The Institute for the Study of Slavery (ISOS) have been running a series of events from September to November highlighting issues and encouraging discourse for Black History Month+ (BLM beyond BHM). 

Our next event is Private Revolutions and Reinventions: Becoming 'Free' the Perils of Freedom in Jamaica, 1756

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Posted on Wednesday 18th November 2020

Institute for the Study of Slavery

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