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Black History Month UK: Museums celebrate African and Caribbean history and culture

Black History Month will be celebrated at National Museums Liverpool with a variety of exhibition, displays and events. Photograph by Pete Carr

Black History Month was established in the UK in 1987 and last week a statue of Rachel Elizabeth Campbell – known as Betty – Wales’ first black headteacher and BHM campaigner was unveiled in Cardiff by Monumental Welsh Women.

Throughout October museums and galleries across the UK will host exhibitions, displays and events to celebrate Black History Month. The month is a nationwide celebration of African and Caribbean culture, arts and history and recognises the achievements and contribution of Black people to British society.

Black History Wales

St Fagans National Museum of History exhibition Windrush Cymru – Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History

In Wales the Black History organisation has been established with Race Council Cymru, which includes museums professionals, race relations experts and academics, and sets out a Black History strategy and coordinates Black History Month Wales.

One of the standout exhibitions is at St Fagans National Museum of History entitled Windrush Cymru – Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History. Launching tomorrow and running until 31 October, the exhibition features the stories of more than 40 people of the Windrush Generation who have shared their photos, stories and memories of migration and forging a new life in Wales.

Black History Month Scotland includes an exhibition by the Coalition for Racial Equality from 4-24 October at the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow. ‘It Wisnae Us’ exhibition provides an insight into the role of slavery in Glasgow’s past, telling a story through the buildings and streets that have a tangible link with slavery.

In Northern Ireland an exhibition looking at historical and influential black figures opens at the Artisan Gallery in Belfast. Looking Back. Thinking Black is an exhibition of new paintings by Ciarán Harper and runs from 6-30 October.

National Museums Liverpool

In England National Museums Liverpool has announced a variety of events taking place across its museums and galleries to mark Black History Month.

Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, said: “We’re looking forward to celebrating Black History Month with a varied and engaging events programme, which visitors can get involved with both across our venues and online.

“This year, we’re working closely with Community Producer Cherise Weaver, to facilitate stimulating conversations with Liverpool’s diverse communities. Cherise will be collaborating with artists to help us to showcase some exciting creative events and activities.”

Highlights from National Museums Liverpool include thought-provoking displays, topical talks and discussions, a series of film screenings and author-led storytelling for children.

Liverpool 8 Against Apartheid at Museum of Liverpool is display exploring some of the strong connections between Liverpool’s Black community, Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. In the 1980s, Liverpool 8 was tireless in its support of the anti-apartheid struggle through demos, product boycotts, park runs and the Free Nelson Mandela Campaign.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery is placing a painting featuring an enslaved African person at the front and centre of its displays acknowledging its context. The oil painting of Catherine-Marie Legendre, painted about 1705 and attributed to Jean Baptiste Santerre (1658-1717), is the only item from the gallery’s 18th century collection to depict a person of colour.

Benin display at World Museum: Film screening, panel discussion and Q&A 9 October, 2-4pm – World Museum

A film screening and panel discussion with members of Liverpool’s African diasporic community. Panel members will reflect on a series of workshops they attended at the Museum. The workshops – recorded in the winter of 2019/20 – were designed to help the Museum rethink the display of its Benin collection, and address historical legacies of injustice to create a more inclusive and engaging display. The new display, which will include a number of looted items, is part of the World Cultures gallery, which will reopen in 2022.

Close up on slavery, abolition and activism 17 and 24 October, 11am-12noon, 1.30-3.30pm – International Slavery Museum

Visitors are invited to get hands-on with some important objects by joining the Learning & Participation Team as they present the International Slavery Museum’s handling collection, including artefacts that are carriers of history and inspiring examples of resilience and activism.

A more comprehensive list of cultural activities can be seen on the Black History Month UK website.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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