Skip to main content

Benjamin Zephaniah questions the value of Black History Month

News article image

Celebrated poet Benjamin Zephaniah has questioned the value of Black History Month in schools. 

Speaking to TES columnist Tom Bennett, the writer, campaigner and poet described the event as an "excuse" that allowed people to "dump" all of black history into just one month. 

“I actually don’t think schools should have a Black History Month,” Zephaniah told Bennett. “[But] we need one now because black history is not an integral part of the history we get taught in schools. If we didn’t have Black History Month, we wouldn’t have any black history.

“People use BHM as an excuse to dump everything there and try and get everything done in a month. It’s not possible. I think the history of black people is a massive thing that’s bigger than African history, that’s bigger than Caribbean history. You could never teach all of it, just like you could never teach all of the history of white people.”

Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman previously denounced BHM for another reason. “You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” he said. “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

Zephaniah agreed. “Black history is almost sold as if it’s something to help black kids, to give them self-esteem,” he said. “I can see the point, but it’s just as important for white people, because some people will have a very narrow view of what black history is…When we talk about slavery, we talk about the slaves being given freedom, as if we were born slaves and we didn’t have a long history before slavery; we weren’t human beings."

Benjamin Zephaniah interviewed by Tom Bennett

To read more from Tom Bennett's interview with Benjamin Zephaniah, subscribe and read TES on your tablet or phone, or download the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.


Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you