Express English College is proud to support Black History Month throughout October in the UK. British history has overlooked the narratives and achievements of Black Britons for too long, particularly in schools where history curriculums have traditionally prioritised topics such as World Wars 1 and 2 rather than educating Britsh youth on Britain’s legacy of slavery and global colonisation. Black History month was first officially recognised in the United States in 1976, with the UK first celebrating in 1987 (McGrath, 2020), to champion, celebrate and give a platform to Black heritage, history and culture. Black History Month aims to amplify the often-overlooked fundamental part of British history Black Britons have occupied. In our General English lessons, Express English College will certainly be studying the ‘real’ history of black people in the United Kingdom.
This year’s Black History Month theme is Proud to Be, a festival of celebration to highlight and mark all that Black and Brown people are proudest of. Catherine Ross, Editor at Black History Month UK, explained why they are launching the campaign: ‘It’s been a challenging time for many Black and Brown people, with so much in the media about racism, inequality and injustice. We wanted the theme of Black History Month 2021 to focus on celebrating being Black or Brown, and to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture – in their own way, in their own words… By asking people to share what they are Proud To Be we can share both individual stories and the vast richness of diversity that Black and Brown people bring to the UK.’ (Editorial Team, 2021)
The presence of Black people in the UK is often erroneously cited as beginning with the arrival of the Windrush Generation in 1948 from Caribbean countries (BBC News, 2020). In fact, people of African descent have been living in the UK for nearly 2,000 years; the assumption that Black people had a presence solely as slaves is soundly disproved through archeological evidence of societally diverse Roman Africans all over the country (Sky History, n.d.). The scale of British slave ownership has, however, been smothered throughout British history: the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act freed 800,000 Africans who were the legal property of Britain’s slave owners and their financial recompense for loss of ‘property’ was the most significant financial bailout in British history until the banking bailout in 2009 (Olusoga, 2015). Evidence of Black people living in Manchester predates the Windrush by centuries, with parish records recording the lives of Black people from as early as 1686 (Manchester City Council, n.d.). This is something the students at Express English College found out when doing research as part of a General English special project.
Manchester has plenty going on to celebrate this year. HOME is celebrating from October through to December, with a fabulous curation of film, theatre, music and art. Fans of Aretha Franklin will surely not want to miss Amazing Grace, a soul-lifting documentary capturing the heart of the queen of soul. The Frog and Bucket is bringing a comedic Black History Month special to the fore on the 24th October, and the Working Class Movement Library has a Black History Month event entitled ‘Multiculturalism in northern England: history, issues and debates’, which you can join on the 27th October.
Express English College is teaching a curriculum focused around Black history. We are reading articles with our students about heroic British Black figures such as Mary Seacole, a British nineteenth-century nurse whose incredible contributions to the Crimean War are often overshadowed by Florence Nightingale, and Joan Armatrading, the first ever female artists to be nominated for a Grammy in the blues category (BBC Newsround, 2018). We will also be screening a documentary about Black representation on TV over the last fifty years and discuss how Black people have been stereotyped and misrepresented through time. blackhistorymonth.org.uk also have an educational resource pack available on their website here.
A brilliant way to celebrate Black History Month this year is to celebrate and enjoy the work of Black authors. Why not check out Goodread’s BHM 2021 reading list here? Penguin also has a section devoted to Black British authors here, and Hachette has compiled Black History Month reads here too. For anyone who has read and fallen in love with the stunning Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other HOME is also hosting an evening with author Bernardine Evaristo (the first Black British author to win the Booker prize), tickets here. You can also find and support London-based, independent Black publishers via this list here. Manchester-based Cultureword, a centre for creative writing in the North West for African Caribbean, Asian and Chinese writers, also host a Queer Black book club once a month, details here.
Please join Express English College in celebrating Black History Month this October. Black lives matter.
BBC News. (2020) Windrush generation: Who are they and why are they facing problems? Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43782241. [Accessed 6 October 2021]
BBC Newsround. (2018) Black History in Britain: Great women you should know about. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/41433196. [Accessed 6 October 2021]
Campbell, A. (2020) Black History M: What is it and why does it matter? Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-54522248. [Accessed 6 October 2021]
Editorial Team, Black History Month 2021. (2021) PROUD TO BE: Black History Month UK launches theme for Black History Month 2021. Available at: https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/news/proud-to-be-black-history-month-uk-launches-theme-for-black-history-month-2021/ [Accessed 6 October 2021]
Manchester City Council. (n.d) Early Black Presence. Available at: https://www.manchester.gov.uk/directory_record/212557/early_black_presence/category/1373/view_all_records [Accessed 6 October 2021]
Olusoga, D. (2015) The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/12/british-history-slavery-buried-scale-revealed. [Accessed 6 October 2021]
Sky History. (n.d.) The History of Black Britain: Roman Africans. Available at: https://www.history.co.uk/article/the-history-of-black-britain-roman-africans. [Accessed 6 October 2021]Tags: EEC experience, English Language Learning Manchester Green School, English Language school, english school, General English, general English 20 lessons, General English with homestay, IELTS, Learn English in Manchester, StudyngintheUK