When Black History Month is done well, it can have a hugely positive impact on Black students in school, as well as non-Black students who otherwise may not have access to knowledge about the inspirational and successful Black people you can teach about during the month. For example, students learning about the Kingdom of Benin, or the legacy of colonisation, or the history of the fight against racism in Britain, is hugely valuable.
The end goal for all schools should be to have a decolonised curriculum which makes the need for BHM redundant, but, until then, go all out during October.
At my school during Black History Month, each department delivers subject specific lessons. For example, in Year 8 Citizenship lessons, students learn about the Bristol Bus Boycott and the resulting Race Relations Act 1965 and 1968, and in Year 9 they learn about influential Black British politicians. In Year 8 RS, students learn about the Mangrove 9 and the first judicial acknowledgement of racial prejudice in the Metropolitan Police, and in Year 7 they study the history of BLM movement and the need for change in the UK. In Year 10 History, students learn about the US civil rights leaders who came to Manchester. In Year 7 Art, about Kehinde Wiley challenging underrepresentation of people of colour in galleries. And so on.
By focusing on a skills-based approach, departments have been able to incorporate diverse content beyond the limits of National Curriculum and GCSE specifications without sacrificing standardised assessment objectives.
In RS and Citizenship, we try and put as much focus on Black British history as possible, rather than rehashing what many students have already learnt about in primary school. While it’s important for students to know about the impact of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela etc. we don’t want our students to falsely believe that racism is just an issue in the US/South Africa. We teach them about Darcus Howe, Olive Morris, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Dr Harold Moody, Doreen Lawrence etc.
Staff have a poster celebrating their Black heroes and begin lessons with each class discussing this person. Having a wide variety of Black icons students can make reference to is hugely important.
External visitors, including people who work and study at local universities, journalists, music artists and religious leaders, are invited in to the academy to deliver sessions with the students. Former students also return to the academy to teach a lesson on something they wish they had been taught about in school.
On the last day of the month, we celebrate with a traditional dress day.
Suggested content from my colleagues
RS and Citizenship: Mangrove 9, New Cross Fire, Bristol Bus Boycott, Black British Politicians.
History: Afro-Romans, Walter Tull and the role of Black Soldiers in WW1, Historical Dinner Party, Being Black in Nazi Germany.
Geography: Great African Cities, Wangari Mathai, media representation following Hurricane Katrina.
English: Black representation in Greek Mythology, Stories of Omission (stories from Empire), John Agard poetry.
Art: Kehinde Wiley challenging underrepresentation of people of colour in galleries, Zaha Hadid female architect life story.