Pictured: Florence Price, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, Alvin Singleton (© Jo Eldredge Morrissey), Anthony Davis, Samuel-Coleridge Taylor, Daniel Kidane (© Kaupo Kikkas)
Black History Month is an annual celebration which is observed around the world. During the month, communities gather together to celebrate and learn more about Black history and culture.
The celebration began in 1926 as a week-long event, organised by American historian and author Carter G. Woodson, who wanted to focus not just on Black history but also celebrate and reinforce the learning culture cultivated by Black schools at the time which explored key Black figures. It was set it February to coincide with the births of former President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom played a significant role in helping end slavery. From 1970, the week expanded to a month and since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month.
Here in the UK, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a Ghanaian analyst and activist coordinated the first Black History Month in October in 1987, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean. Focusing on a different theme each year, this year’s theme ‘Saluting our Sisters’, draws particular attention to the invaluable contributions of black women on British society and the change they’ve inspired, whilst also recognising the systematic intersectionality that black women have had to face historically and in current society.
When we look to celebrate black women within classical music, it becomes quite clear that this sector still suffers with a lack of diversity in many avenues. Therefore, to encourage and empower black and ethnically diverse groups whom are underrepresented within classical music, we have collated a list of podcasts, publications, organisations and audio resources that would assist the fostering of a better understanding of Black history and culture, whilst also raising awareness and celebrating its importance within music and education.
Organisations to Discover
It's important to note that Black History Month celebrations should not just be limited to the month itself but celebrated everyday in order to actively support and endorse black and ethnically diverse musicians and promote representation. This will then filter through to a better, more inspirational educational environment for children. Naomi André questions in her book Blackness in Opera, ‘Can white composers or librettists ever create “authentic” black characters, or are they compromised from the outset by not having lived an “authentically black' experience?’. This interesting question draws the inevitable conclusion that it is not good enough to simply support white composers, authors and people with an influential platform who promise to indorse and promote change, but instead is essential to directly support resources and music curated by black and ethnically diverse individuals in order to facilitate the essential encouragement and representation within musical education.