BLACK HISTORY MONTH IS NOW AN ESTABLISHED PART OF THE YEAR. LET’S CELEBRATE ITS SUCCESS. (It is) an American import, a concept brought to Britain in the 1980s. In the US, it is celebrated in February and began life as Negro History Week in the 1920s. Transplanted from there to here it has slowly grown to become a modern tradition, an established part of the calendar for many people of all races.
In the 1980s, everyone in Britain, including black people themselves, knew less about black British history than we do today. Much of the key scholarship had yet to be done, many of the discoveries yet to be made. So as well as importing an American tradition much of its content was also brought to Britain.
Back then, Black History Month events were more likely to remember Rosa Parks and the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott than they were to shine a light on the Bristol bus boycott and the British colour bar. Thirty-three years later and Black History Month has both evolved and matured. It is bigger, better funded, stamped with the imprimatur of official approval and more firmly focused on British history.
But while Black History Month was establishing itself as a new tradition, a parallel tradition was also developing. It has long been obligatory, it seems, for Black History Month to be dismissed and denounced in ways that would be utterly unimaginable for, say, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Each year, it is labelled “politically correct” and in 2018 there were calls for it to be made into a broader celebration of wider diversity, effectively BAME History Month.
One council went as far as rebranding its events under the banner “Diversity Month”. And every year, as regular as clockwork, as inevitably as death and taxes, Black History Month is greeted with the same fatuous and disingenuous claim that it is somehow unfair, as there is no white history month, a ploy every bit as cynical as the phrase “All lives matter”. …