This week's all about exploring what Black History Month means to the University of York.

The University community is diverse and inclusive, with student representation from over 100 countries, and we are committed to increasing the diversity of our University community.

Hear from some of our current students, as well as one of our wonderful alumni, explaining what Black History Month means to them:

Contact us

Access and Outreach
+44 (0)1904 323529

The University of York Students' Union (YUSU) BAME Officers and African-Caribbean Society (ACS) represent Black students at the University by organising events and making their voice heard. They campaign within the Union, University and in wider society; promoting equality for BAME students.

Hear from the President of ACS and one of the BAME officers on what they do - we’ll let them do the talking!

What Black History Month means to you

We'd love to hear what Black History Month means to you. Please use this submission box to let us know in a few words what this month means to you.

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Black History highlight - John Blanke

Little is known about John Blanke. He is first introduced in the 'Westminster Tournament Rolls' in 1511 as the only Black person shown. John Blanke was only one of around 200 African people in early 16th century England and, though he cannot account for every African experience in England, his ability to rise in the ranks of English society as a result of his musical skill suggests that the African presence was not unwelcome. 

His musical skill allowed him a comfortable position as a court musician and in England he was free - or at least freer - with life being dictated far more by social class rather than his skin colour. Records from the King’s Chamber Treasury show John Blanke’s monthly wages to be 20 shillings or £12 a year - twice the amount of an agricultural worker and three times the amount of a typical servant. This position also provided John Blanke with board, lodging and a clothing allowance.

John Blanke’s presence in Tudor courts was not restricted only to Henry VII’s reign. John Blanke was a noted trumpeter in Henry VIII’s coronation and following the death of a fellow trumpeter petitioned for an increase of pay to 16d a day. John Blanke's presence in Tudor history is vital in going beyond slavery and creating a more diverse narrative in Black British history and Britain's global history. 

Provided by the University of York History Society

Read, watch and listen

Check out these resources to help educate yourself about Black History:

  • Black Lives Matter in Jamaica: debates about colourism follow anger at police brutality is an article from the Department of History's very own Professor Henrice Altink about Black Lives Matter in Jamaica.
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison focuses on 40 Black female figures of history, both iconic and lesser known who broke boundaries and expectations.  
  • Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence is a story about a Black British teenager, who promises his mum that he’d stick to the right path but is forced to make an impossible choice when he and the people he cares for become hunted.
  • Crash Course History: the Atlantic Slave Trade provides a quick overview of a saddening segment of world history, that has massive impacts on Black history to this day across the world.
  • Amistad, available to watch on Netflix, is based on the true story of a slave ship that rebelled while on their way to the USA in 1839 and the court case in which some Americans tried to see them freed. 
  • Crash Course Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance focus on a lesser known period of US Black history in which great works of literature, painting, music and other art were propelled forward by Black Americans. 
  • Take a listen to Dame Shirley Bassey, a fantastic singer, famous for numerous Bond themes such as Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger.
  • Witness Black History, a podcast series from the BBC World Service where they interview people who were there at key moments in the civil rights movement in the United States. Learn more about the unknown struggles Black people in the USA have faced in the past and how that impacts today.

What's on?

Discover some of the events that're being hosted by the University to mark Black History Month:

Decolonising the Syllabus: teaching China through Black History

Friday 9 October, 1.30pm to 2.30pm

The Department of History and York Asia Research Network (YARN) host a talk by Dr Keisha A Brown, Tennessee State University, who will address how the academy should respond to and reflect the current moment through her work on what she terms ‘Sino-Black relations’.


Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983) and Derek (2009) film screening

Tuesday 20th October 7pm to 9.15pm 

The Norman Rea Gallery and the Department of History of Art have come together to organise a screening of two films by British filmmaker Isaac Julien.

Book your ticket

England's hidden history

Friday 23rd October 7pm to 8pm

Led by Dr Onyeka Nubia, this event seeks to reinvent the way in which we look at British history by looking at the African influence and contribution to the Tudor period of England.

Reserve your place

These events are organised by members of the University community and not by the Access and Outreach team. They're provided primarily for University students, so please consider whether the content is appropriate for you or your students as some of the content may be distressing.

Contact us

Access and Outreach
+44 (0)1904 323529