October marks UK Black History Month, the annual commemoration of the specific contribution African and Caribbean communities have impacted onto the rich history of the United Kingdom and beyond.
The UK’s version was first founded and celebrated in 1987 by Akyaaba Addai, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council. In the years since, it has grown country-wide into a month of events and celebrations to acknowledge the lesser known histories and achievements of Black people.
For primary school children, it is a fantastic opportunity to integrate everyday learning whilst engaging with and embracing some rich yet often overlooked cultural histories. There are many exciting ways to bring Black History Month to life in the classroom across a breadth of subjects and activities — from colourful displays, to exploring new stories, to learning some new music. Here are a few ideas to get started:
Assembly - Share a story
Read an inspirational story, either fiction or non-fiction, that features a black character. Perhaps invite members of the wider school community to come in and share a children’s book with the school or class. Encourage pupils to engage with any mentions of struggle to be overcome and to share what they enjoyed from the story. Check out the Black History Month reading list for ideas.
English - Write an acrostic poem
Black History Month was started as a way to educate communities about parts of history that weren’t being remembered or taught. It’s a great time to research black men and women who have made a positive impact in history, from the civil rights activist Martin Luther King, to Mae C. Jamison, the first black woman to travel to space.
Why not write an acrostic BLACK HISTORY poem, thinking about why it’s important to remember events of the past and perhaps include some newly discovered black historical figures too!
Music - Dance a Calypso
Learn about Calypso music and Lord Kitchener, the famous musician who came to England on the Empire Windrush in 1948. Listen to Lord Kitchener, “London is the Place For Me”. Discuss the lyrics and sound. What instruments can be identified?
History - Discover extraordinary lives
Research a black cultural figure, past or present. What are their achievements? Were they the first black person to do so? What obstacles might they have had?
Puffin's’ ‘Extraordinary Lives’ series offers a selection of illustrated, detailed biographies for primary school readers, bringing the stories to life of black figures such as doctress in the Crimean War, Mary Seacole, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, civil rights activist Rosa Parks and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Art - Create an inspiring class display
Create a display for the classroom using an inspirational quote connected to black history. You could also create portraits or drawings of items associated with anything being learnt in relation to Black History Month — i.e HMT Empire Windrush.
Huge thank you to Naida Redgrave, writer of The Extraordinary Life of Mary Seacole for sharing these inspiring ideas.
If your school is doing something inspiring to celebrate stories that you'd like to tell the world about, please contact PuffinSchools@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk with 'Inspiring Ideas' in the subject line.