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Black History Month UK: Moments in history to talk to your kids about

Since 1987, the UK has celebrated Black History Month every October. And whilst it’s so important for schools and other institutions to have this as a focus every autumn, learning about the subject of Black history and the many ways in which Black people have shaped life in this country should be reflected upon year-round. Check out our Founder’s note on talking about racism with your kids here for more thoughts.

In Banjo’s series of Black History Month blogs, we started off with our suggestions for great kids’ books to read with the little ones. You can find this blog here. In the next in our series, we are talking about moments in UK and US history that you can talk to your kids about. There are a LOT of iconic moments when it comes to Black history and here are just a few that we think are great starting points: 

1835 — John Kent serves as the UK’s first Black police officer. John’s father was Thomas Kent, who was brought to Whitehaven in the UK as an enslaved man before being freed. Kent served a police officer in Maryport and then Carlisle, and a blue plaque commemorating his contribution was unveiled in 2019!

1863– President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1. The proclamation calls for the freedom of all slaves found in Confederate states in America. While it did not give immediate freedom to most slaves, thousands were still freed the day the proclamation went into effect.  The abolition of the slave trade happened in Britain in 1807. It’s truly shocking to realise that slavery was still happening less than 160 years ago. 

1909– The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed in the USA in response to the Springfield Race Riot of 1908. The riot included the burning of Black-owned homes and businesses and the killing of Black citizens.

1948 – Between 1948 and 1970, nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain, which in 1948 faced severe labour shortages in the wake of the Second World War. The immigrants were later referred to as the Windrush generation. Despite having equal rights to British citizenship, new arrivals from the Commonwealth faced prejudice and abuse. This Windrush generation would start up newspapers and introduce new musical tastes – ska, reggae, calypso, jazz, funk, rock, and pop – and bring new styles of dress, colour, and vibrancy to a younger, wider audience of British people!

1955– Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat to a White passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, and is arrested. The event sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, which led to the integration of the public bus transit system in the USA! 

1963– One of the most profound moments of the American Civil Rights Movement, the March on Washington D.C., is held. Among the events, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. You can read this to your little one here

1963 – Before 1965 and the establishment of the Race Relations Act in the UK, there was nothing in law to prevent racial discrimination when hiring people for jobs. The Bristol Omnibus Company refused to employ any Black or Asian workers causing an outcry, which led to a four-month boycott before the bar on applicants of colour was lifted. The boycott, led by members of the West Indian community, was inspired by the refusal of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a segregated bus in the USA.

2008 – President Barack Obama is elected president, becoming the first Black president-elect of the United States. He is backed by a multitude of supporters from nearly every background and age group too!

Learning about the experiences and contributions of all people, especially those who are less represented in the history books, is the only way that we can become an inclusive society. Remember to ask questions to your little ones, and answer as many questions they may have too!


Lots of love, Banjo HQ x

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