Black History Month 2020

News | Posted on Monday 28 September 2020

We'll be celebrating Black History Month 2020 throughout October.

A group of African musicians at the Portuguese court in a panel from the Saint Auta Altarpiece, 1522

Black History Month in the UK is in its 33rd year and is celebrated and recognised across the country in schools, city centres, cinema, festivals and more.

The theme for 2020 is 'Celebrating black voices, celebrating black history' and here at the University we will be hosting a variety of online events to celebrate black voices, and to foster an understanding of Black History in general. 

In addition to the celebratory aspects, the month presents an engaging space of mutual reflection on the achievements and innovative contributions to the social, political and cultural development of the United Kingdom.

There is also an opportunity for members of our community to learn more about some of the issues impacting society and people of colour in contemporary society on an international level.

What's on?

What's wrong with the Renaissance - curriculum, colonialism and English?

Thursday 1 October, 5-7pm

A round-zoom-table discussion with Shani Bans, Issa Islam, Farah Karim-Cooper, Wendy Lennon and Subha Mukherji. The prolonged surge of the Black Lives Matter movement has led to a great deal of conspicuous hand-wringing in universities, museums and the arts. Will it make any difference? How will it change the academy as a whole and how does it need to change a field such as Renaissance Literature and its allied disciplines? Do we remain, as a discipline, impervious to how few BIPOC scholars come through to MAs and PhDs in the Renaissance? Bringing together five scholars at different career stages, this round-table will ask what's wrong with the Renaissance, as a literary discipline (and as a concept), addressing the curriculum, race and the realities of the academy for scholars of colour.

Book your ticket for What's wrong with the Renaissance?

Decolonising the syllabus: Teaching China through Black history

Friday 9 October, 3.30-4.30pm

The Department of History and York Asia Research Network (YARN) are delighted to announce an invited talk by Dr Keisha A Brown, Tennessee State University. She will address how the academy should respond to and reflect the current moment through her work on what she terms ‘Sino-Black relations’. Inspired by her Fairbank Center blog post Teaching China through Black History and the AAS Digital Dialogue Asian Studies and BLM Dr Brown will address how we can address diversity, equity, and inclusion in our teaching, service, and research.

Book your ticket for Decolonising the syllabus

Please register before 5pm on Wednesday 7 October.

Essayisms Reading Group

Monday 12 October, 4.30-6.00pm 

The first meeting of the Essayisms Reading Group, part of CModS The Contemporary Essay Research Strand. In this inaugural event we will consider and celebrate the work of groundbreaking black essayists who put the essay form to work in the service of both political and aesthetic innovation and persuasion. What is the radical potential of the essay as an aesthetic form? How does it make visible the relationship between personal experience, national and cultural identity, and wider political forces? What is the role of the essay in political activism past and present? And where is its place in black literary histories across the globe? All welcome. 

This week we'll be discussing: 

  • James Baldwin 'Notes of a Native Son' (1955) 
  • An extract from Margo Jefferson's Negroland (2015)
  • 'liminal spaces i' from Just Us (2020) by Claudia Rankine 
  • Fred Moten talk on 'The Poet's Essay'

We have included an additional review of Negroland for your interest. You can access the readings via this shared google folder. If you don't have a York institutional email address please contact Dr Lola Boorman ( for access.

Mental health: Another casualty of coronavirus?

Thursday 15 October, 6.30pm to 8pm

World Mental Health Day 2020 Lecture. Join us for an evening of talks and discussion on the implications and effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of different groups and communities from a range of academic perspectives. The keynote speaker is Dr Kwame McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer, Wellesley Institute, who will talk about inequalities in this area faced by the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Communities. Academics at the University of York will also present their research into the experiences, both negative and positive, of different population groups.

Find out more about Mental health: Another casualty of coronavirus?

YUSU BAME online debate and panel discussion

Friday 16 October, 6pm

YUSU BAME Network are hosting an online debate between York Anti-racism Collective (YARC) and The African Caribbean Society (ACS), along with a panel discussion. Speakers include Wayne Campbell, University of York Academic Registrar; Sayce Holmes-Lewis, Founder and CEO of Mentivity; Beni Ngwamah, Founder and CEO of WEKA; and Larissa Kennedy, President of the NUS.

Find out more about the YUSU BAME debate

Isaac Julien film screening

Tuesday 20 October, 7-9.15pm

Norman Rea Gallery and the Department of History of Art invite you to an exclusive screening of two moving image works, Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983) and Derek (2009) by acclaimed British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien CBE RA. Who Killed Colin Roach? is a poetic investigation into the murder of a young black British man outside a police station in East London. Derek is a documentary exploring the life and art of pioneering queer filmmaker Derek Jarman. 

Find more information and book tickets for the Isaac Julien film screening

Revolutionary love, revolutionary weddings: Marriage in the Black Panther Party

Wednesday 21 October, 5.30-7pm

The Department of History is delighted to be hosting a public talk by Dr Traci Parker (University of Massachusetts, Amherst). Dr Parker will talk about her exciting new book project, Beyond Loving: Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Black Freedom Movement. It will be followed by a Q and A and discussion. 

Book tickets for Revolutionary love, revolutionary weddings

Please register before 5pm on Tuesday 20 October.

The Power of Fiction: A Literary Salon on Decolonisation

Thursday 22 October, 5.30pm

Please join us to mark Black History Month with the Department of English and Related Literature's Decolonizing Network.

In this inaugural event we will consider and celebrate the power of fiction to decolonise. What role does fiction (in all languages from all literary periods) play in the move to decolonise the discipline of English literature, but also decolonise the institution of the University more generally?

We invite student and staff participants from any department at York to take part in a literary salon to explore the power of fiction and celebrate writers of colour. We encourage students to think across literary and historical periods as well as across national and linguistic boundaries.

Black History did not start at slavery

Thursday 22 October, 6pm to 7.30pm

The Graduate Students' Association is hosting this event with guest speaker Gaverne Bennett. 

Book your place on Black History did not start at slavery

England’s hidden history

Friday 23 October, 7-8pm

Dr Onyeka Nubia is a pioneering and internationally recognised historian, writer and presenter, working on reinventing our perceptions of the Renaissance, British history, Black Studies and intersectionalism. Dr Nubia is the leading historian on the status and origins of Africans in pre-colonial England from antiquity to 1603. He has developed entirely new strands of British history including Africans in Ancient and Medieval England. For this talk he will share the untold story of people of African descent who lived and worked throughout England in the Tudor period. 

Find more information and book tickets for England’s hidden history

An evening with Peter Brathwaite

Monday 26 October, 8pm to 9pm

Join Opera singer Peter Brathwaite for an extraordinary evening detailing his passion for 'degenerate music', the ways in which his work has paid tribute to and been informed by Black histories in Britain, and his extraordinary lockdown project to discover Black portraiture. This evening will allow audiences to discover how Peter's astonishing visual project was conceived and brought to life, and how it intersects with his long standing passion for the arts, and for the power of music and of painting at some of history's darkest and most painful moments. This is an unparalleled opportunity to quiz this talented and versatile artist and performer, and to see key moments of England's - and the world's - artistic and musical heritage in new ways.

Book tickets for An evening with Peter Brathwaite

From Windrush to the Royal Veterinary College and Founding the Reach Society – a winding journey to success

Wednesday 28 October, 4pm to 5pm

Dr Donald Palmer of the Royal Veterinary College will articulate his journey from the arrival of his family around the time of Windrush to growing up in London as a black child. His schooling in the days when CSE’s were the norm for BAME students, his passion for chemistry, followed by progression to a PhD via a non-traditional route. In 2010 Dr Palmer was a founding member of the Reach Society, which empowers black children to reach their full potential through mentorship, guidance and support. 

Register for the Donald Palmer event

Hidden Figures discussion

Wednesday 28 October, 7.30pm

The Department of Computer Science is inviting York staff and students to a virtual (Zoom) discussion of the film Hidden Figures. The 2016 American biographical drama was directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder. It is loosely based on the 2016 non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about black female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and made a major contribution to the science and technologies used during the early years of the Space Race, but whose story was largely untold before 2016.

Unfortunately, we are unable to stream the film directly, but Hidden Figures is being shown on Thursday 22 October at 9pm on Film 4, and should also be available for streaming on All4 and Box of Broadcasts afterwards. Please watch it - and then join us for the discussion. We will talk about the film itself, and how it differs from the women’s story, and then widen the discussion to consider issues relating to race and gender in science and also the representation of science in film.

Register for this discussion

Other related events

Black History Month takeover

The Access and Outreach team is holding a Black History Month takeover throughout October. 

They will be hosting activities, events and resources to highlight Black History and show how our staff, students and alumni celebrate Black History Month. They will release videos, articles, competitions, virtual exhibitions, live events and other resources for you to view and take part in to help develop your understanding of Black History. 

Visit the Access and Outreach pages every Thursday in October for a new theme accompanied by events, resources and opportunities to get involved.

Week 1: What Black History Month means to the University of York

Students, staff and societies have produced videos on what Black History Month means to them. 

View the videos

Week 2: British Black History

Highlighting examples of British Black history to raise awareness of the contributions Black people have made to our society.

Find out more

Week 3: York's Black History

York has a fascinating Black history - whether it’s the creation of the booming chocolate industry of the 19th and 20th centuries, the beginnings of a boxing legend's career or one of the oldest known examples of a person of African descent living in Roman Britain.

Read about York's Black History

Week 4: Looking to the future

Hearing from more voices at York and thinking about how we can continue striving to make the world a fairer and more diverse place.

Looking to the future

National events

There are Black History Month events taking place across the country:


We have gathered resources to help all members of our community better understand what it is like to experience racism, how to support those who experience racism and what the University is doing to progress its anti-racism work on the Let’s talk about race and racism web page

Policies, guidance and resources are available on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion web pages.

The University Library has created a Black Lives Matter reading list

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680