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  1. ITV Report

What is Black History Month and why is it celebrated?

Jamaican immigrants being welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT Empire Windrush landed. Credit: PA

October marks Black History Month, the annual celebration of the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK.

Events celebrating African and Caribbean cultures will take place across the UK until October 31.

While the UK celebrates Black History Month in October, across the world where it originated, commemorations take place throughout February, however both share a common purpose.

The dedicated month was envisioned as a way to counter the perceived invisibility of black people and to challenge the negative stereotypes that were often the only manner black people were pictured in popular culture.

So how was Black History Month formed?

Baroness Lawrence OBE campaigned tirelessly for reforms of the police service after her son, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered in a racist attack. Credit: PA

Black History Month was first launched in London in 1987 where the aim was for the local community to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about the history that was not taught in schools.

Some have argued it was founded partially as a response to the urban riots and racial tensions of the 1980s.

Athlete Tessa Sanderson became the first British black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Credit: PA

Although at this point, the commemorative month had already been going on in the US for around 20 years and was created by Harvard-educated historian Carter G Woodson, who wanted to challenge preconceptions at the time.

He founded The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 which encouraged scholars and historians to research and preserve black history and culture.

In June 1948, the SS Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury Dock in Essex. Credit: PA

In February 1926, Woodson founded Negro History Week, which was done to also coincide with Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

It was later decided that a week was not long enough and, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the Black Power Movement, Black History Month was born in 1969.

Why is Black History Month important?

Many believe Black History Month is important now more than ever before, especially in the recent light of the Windrush scandal which saw long-term UK residents denied access to services, held in detention or removed despite living legally in the country for decades.

The issue began because many Commonwealth citizens who had a legal right to come and live in the UK, and who arrived before 1973, were not given documents confirming their status that they had been granted indefinite leave to remain.

A public outcry erupted in April 2018 after this emerged and led to the resignation of then home secretary Amber Rudd.

Members of Campaign group Stand Up To Racism during a demonstration on Whitehall over Windrush scandal. Credit: PA

Black History Month also celebrates the fact that black people have been in Britain for a lot longer than previously thought.

One of the oldest skeletons ever found, who lived around 10,000 years ago, was that of the Cheddar Man who had dark skin.

Throughout history black people have always been present in the UK but there has been a lack of representation in the history books.