Celebrating UK Black History Month: Learning Resources, a Read & Watch List, and Content Creation Tools
October is Black History Month in the UK. We asked colleagues across WordPress.com for their recommendations for deeper learning and participation this month — and the rest of the year.
This year’s UK Black History Month theme, Proud To Be, is about celebrating the Black experience. As a distributed company with employees around the world, including the United Kingdom, we believe that the more perspectives we embrace, and the more we learn about our teammates, the better we are at engaging and helping our global community.
This October, we encourage individuals and organizations to learn more about Black history, heritage, and culture in the UK. “Black British history is British history. It’s more than a month; it is interwoven in everything,” says Ama, a colleague based in Scotland. “We have changed landscapes in education, law, politics, work, and equality for all within the UK.” Black history is deeply embedded in UK culture, says Ama, from institutions — like the National Health Service — to music, sports, art, media, and popular culture.
Interested in learning more? We’ve compiled a list of staff recommendations:
Explore these resources this month — or bookmark them for learning and inspiration anytime.
#PoweredByWordPress learning resources
From the official UK Black History Month hub to the website of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation, these resources are great starting points for your journey.
All year long, Black History Month publishes news, features, career and education information, and event listings across the UK. Make it your first resource for getting educated and involved.
Focused on youth education and development, this London-based community charity raises Black cultural awareness of the general public, educating and uplifting youth in particular. The foundation envisions a world where Black heroes are acknowledged, respected, and celebrated.
The 1993 murder and case of Stephen Lawrence — an 18-year-old from southeast London who was killed in an unprovoked racial attack while waiting for the bus — led to a major shift in the UK in attitudes about racism, the criminal justice system, and the role of the police. The Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation continues to tell Stephen’s story, offers resources for educators and organizers, and works toward creating a just society.
The National Archives is the official archive and publisher of the UK government, documenting over 1000 years of history. Researchers can browse the Black British history section of the website for a guide on social and political history in the 20th century, lots of blog and multimedia content, and records relating to British citizens of African and African-Caribbean descent.
Partnering with museums, schools, and other institutions, Black History Walks offers a dozen walking tours throughout London, public monthly educational talks, and video courses and resources on Black history. Its diverse programming targets a range of people both in person and online, from students to travelers to businesses.
A read & watch syllabus
Looking for book, TV, and film recommendations about Black history and culture in the UK — or by Black scholars and creators — but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some of our nonfiction, fiction, and film and television picks.
- Black and British: A Forgotten History: Published to accompany the BBC Two series noted in the Film and Television section below, this must-read book by historian David Olusoga examines the shared history between the British Isles and the people of Africa.
- 100 Great Black Britons: In this book, Patrick Vernon and Angelina Osborne — founders of the 100 Great Black Britons campaign — celebrate Black British history and recognize key Black Britons who have helped to shape Great Britain.
- Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging: A hybrid of history and memoir, Afua Hirsch’s book “reveals the identity crisis at the heart of Britain today” and explores a nation in denial about its imperial past and present.
- This Is Why I Resist: Don’t Define My Black Identity: In a book that demands fundamental change, activist and lawyer Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu examines the roots of racism and anti-Blackness and calls for meaningful action.
- The Louder I Will Sing: A Story of Racism, Riots and Redemption: In 1985, when Lee Lawrence was a child, his mother was wrongfully shot by police during a raid on their home in Brixton. Published more than three decades later, his memoir chronicles what it was like to grow up as a young Black man in England and how that day influenced his family.
- In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System: Experiencing a tragedy as a teenager pushed Alexander Wilson to become a barrister — a type of lawyer — so she could make a difference within an unjust system. Her debut book describes her experience as a mixed-race woman in a field lacking in diverse representation.
- Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire: In this book, author and hip-hop artist Akala blends biography and personal experience with an examination of race and class across topics — from education to politics and the police to the far right.
- Misfits: A Personal Manifesto: This “coming-to-power manifesto” by Michaela Coel — the actress, writer, and creator of I May Destroy You — builds on an inspiring keynote address she delivered at the 2018 Edinburgh International Television Festival about resilience, empathy, storytelling, and growing up in public housing in East London.
- What a Time to Be Alone: The Slumflower’s Guide to Why You Are Already Enough: In this illustrated self-help guide, author and influencer Chidera Eggerue, also known as the Slumflower, writes about self-love, empowerment, and creating your own narrative. The book also includes Igbo proverbs from Eggerue’s Nigerian mother.
I recommend David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History. It’s a really important book, with new updates on the Windrush scandal and Black Lives Matter from the UK perspective.
—Victoria Jones, UK
- White Teeth: Published over 20 years ago, Zadie Smith’s debut novel focuses on the lives of two unlikely friends and their families in London. Considered a “modern classic of multicultural Britain,” the book is a window into the immigrant experience.
- Girl, Woman, Other: Weaving a dozen narratives about different people across ages, backgrounds, and professions, Bernardine Evaristo examines topics of identity, race, and womanhood in modern Britain.
- Love in Colour: This collection of short stories by author Bolu Babalola reimagines ancient love stories and folktales from around the world, from Greek myths to Middle Eastern legends, and centers Black women and strong female characters.
- Queenie: This sharp and funny novel by Candice Carty-Williams is about the life of Queenie Jenkins, a mid-twenties British Jamaican woman living in London who’s struggling to find her place in the world.
- Such a Fun Age: One night, a supermarket security guard sees a young Black woman, Emira Tucker, in the aisles with a white toddler. The guard accuses Emira of kidnapping, when in reality she’s the babysitter. In this novel, Kiley Reid takes a look at race, class, power dynamics, and privilege.
I’ve greatly valued Zadie Smith’s work. Her novels — especially White Teeth — are well crafted and offer a mix of comedy and realism that often focuses on social class in England. Her essays are things of beauty. She’s worth a read, no matter the month.
Daryl L. L. Houston, USA
Film and Television
- Black and British: A Forgotten History: This BBC Two series by David Olusoga, composed of four episodes, looks at the relationship between Britain and people of African origins, slavery, and Black British identity in the 20th century.
- Small Axe: In this anthology of five films, 12 Years a Slave filmmaker Steve McQueen brings to life the stories of West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to 1980s.
- Black Power: A British Story of Resistance: This hour-and-a-half documentary includes interviews with activists involved in Britain’s Black Power movement in the late 1960s. (The BBC’s larger collection of programming for Black History Month is also worth browsing.)
- I May Destroy You: Michaela Coel’s recent Emmy-winning drama series is about a promising young writer, Arabella, who is sexually assaulted one night while out with her friends. The show explores consent and trauma, and stars a primarily Black British cast.
- Black and Welsh: Cardiff-born filmmaker Liana Stewart brings together people from across Wales to highlight its multiculturalism and to share stories from community members about what it means to be Black and Welsh.
- Hair Power: Me and My Afro: Irish writer and broadcaster Emma Dabiri has intimate conversations with both men and women about their hair, digging into how and why Afro and Black hair is an important and complex aspect of the Black experience.
- Highlife: This premium reality TV show follows the lives of eight successful, glamorous British West Africans and depicts a different angle of Black life in the UK.
- Desmond’s: Originally running from 1989 to 1994, this sitcom was set in a barbershop in Peckham, southeast London, and featured a mostly Black British Guyanese cast.
Blog and website resources
Lean on these resources, tools, and organizations during UK Black History Month — and beyond — to publish content on your site that’s fitting for your audience, or to connect with and collaborate with others.
- Stock illustration libraries like Black Illustrations.
- Diverse stock photography sites, including free resources like Nappy, Picnoi, and CreateHER Stock, and premium photo collections at TONL, Eye for Ebony, Mocha Stock, and Raw Pixel. (Disabled and Here, a free stock image library with photos of disabled Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), also publishes an interview series with disabled BIPOC writers and activists.)
- Organizations at the intersection of tech and diversity, like UKBlackTech, which supports diverse innovation and equity, transparency, and representation across the UK; and TechUP Women, a tech training program for people from underrepresented communities.
- Teaching resources across age groups, including a Black History Month resource pack, a BBC series of short films for primary and secondary school teachers, and The Times Educational Supplement’s Black experiences hub.
Would you like to recommend a website on WordPress, writing or media by a Black thinker or creator in the UK, or another resource? Tell us in the comments.