Case Study

Black History Month 2021 at HMC Schools

See how a variety of how HMC schools have marked Black History Month in 2021:

Cheltenham Ladies’ College

Cheltenham Ladies’ College welcomed Baroness Lola Young to the Parabola Arts Centre for a talk about diversity and British Cinema. Baroness Young’s talk was filled with challenging ideas and pertinent questions regarding the issue of race and the representation of race in cinema. Click here to find out more.

Canford School

Canford School celebrated Black History Month as part of its school-wide enrichment with a programme of workshops, activities, visiting speakers and film designed to encourage pupils and staff to explore the influential part played by black people across the globe.

Visiting speakers historical researcher, writer and editor, Dr Angelina Osborne, writer and journalist Patrice Lawrence MBE, and the acclaimed Barber Shop Chronicles complemented internal activities during the month.   There were screenings of ‘One Night in Miami’ – a fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s and ‘Harriet’ – the tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, a talk by current teacher Mr Wilson on his experiences as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and the cricketing history of the West Indies, and following recent nationally-publicised events in cities and at universities, pupils debated the motion ‘This house supports the removal of statues of historical figures linked to institutional racism’ which provoked some excellent presentations and thoughtful viewpoints.  Curriculum lessons spanning both Arts and Sciences focused on the influence of black people in history, such as Geographers exploring the underground railroads, the Art department examining the work of Mark Bradford, Chris Ofili and El Anatsui, Sport tackling theory on ethnicity and sport and barriers to inclusion and Classicists looking at the diversity of Roman London.

Pupils and staff were also encouraged to learn more about black history in the local area with an exhibition in the school’s theatre foyer space exploring 400 years of the presence of black people in Dorset including African American GIs on Poole Quay and a freed enslaved American living in Bournemouth. Elements of the programme were further incorporated into the school’s annual Festival of Ideas, this year entitled ‘The Individual in Society.’

Ashford School

During Black History Month, Ashford School raised awareness across the curriculum of the enormous contribution to our country’s history and culture made by people of African and Caribbean heritage. ‘Proud to be’ was the theme of an English lesson dedicated to researching, learning about and celebrating Black History Month, and students in Years 7 to 13 will take part in activities designed to inform and support their understanding. A series of History lessons were devoted to study of the important role people from countries colonised by the European Empires played in World War One. This culminated in students giving their own mini-presentations.

Human rights and human rights violations were topics for research in Religious Studies lessons for students in Year 8, who presented their findings and examples to their peers. Year 10 students studied the GCSE unit entitled ‘Crime and Punishment’ during Black History month and learnt about the murder of Stephen Lawrence as an example of hate crime. They also found out about the murder of Anthony Walker, and the forgiveness shown by his mother and sister towards those who took Anthony’s life.

In Mathematics, discussion of mathematicians past and present celebrates those of all cultures, and this was visualised on a display board, which celebrates diversity among mathematicians.

Ipswich School

The school marked Black History Month in a number of ways. Alongside displays within the school library, the Librarians put together a thought-envoking reading list for students and staff to explore; Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala were just a small selection of books included on the list. Also, two students read, and reviewed Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaninah and Black and British by David Olusoga. The latter was referred to as “the best book I read during Black History Month – and you should read it too.” Our pupils have also written articles for our school newspaper on: why we celebrate Black History Month; inspirational Black Britons including Mary Seacole and Marcus Rashford & coverage of a lecture delivered by a teacher at Ipswich School, on Black British History.

Pocklington School

To celebrate and commemorate Black History Month at Pocklington School, the school has run assemblies to all year groups, as well as a History Department podcast that has focussed on forgotten figures from Black British history in the Georgian period. One additional focus has been the story of the Bristol Bus Boycott, arising from the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to employ black or Asian bus crews in the city of Bristol, England. It has been fascinating to delve into this piece of English history and see how it was not only in the USA that protests were underway in support of civil rights. Finally, pupils have been researching the stories of significant black figures from the past in tutor periods and in their Chemistry lessons. See here for a link to PowerPoint slides.

Chigwell School

Chigwell School has celebrated Black History Month through activities led by the student Equality Ambassadors, pupils have been learning the importance of Black cultures across the globe. The wide range of activities has included performances, thematic talks in assemblies, quizzes, chapel services, poetry, story telling and library collaborations.

As part of the celebrations, the school organised an ‘embellished’ uniform day on Thursday. The school asked pupils to add to their school uniforms items of clothing which link to different African and Caribbean flags. Pupils were also invited to wear their traditional national dress if they wished to. Year groups in the Senior School were allocated different flags and colours and they have chosen two charities to support.

The School’s chefs and catering team have created a special menu for Black History Month, where pupils had the opportunity to taste the flavours of Africa and the Caribbean. The Swallow Library joined in with the celebrations, putting on display a range of books on Black History and Cultures to inspire pupils. Older pupils have taken the initiative to further explore Black culture and values through literature portraying Black History Month, sharing these with the younger years through story-telling sessions and pupils have been making posters for all departments showing inspirational black people linked to the subjects.

Latymer Upper School

Latymer Prep and Upper Schools have been celebrating the contributions and often unheralded achievements of black pioneers, public figures, and personalities within our society during Black History Month. Exploring this year’s theme, ‘Proud to Be’, the schools’ events and activities have focused on the contributions of Black British figures, from Walter Tull; Claudia Jones, Rose Hudson Wilkin and Malorie Blackman, who’ve been discussed in Upper School Assemblies, to Ernest Everett Just; Emmett Chappelle, Katherine Johnson and Mae C. Jemison who Prep pupils have been researching and linking to their learning in Science. In the Library, pupils have enjoyed book readings of black authors and the Upper School Library team has drawn up and promoted the schools’ “Black Voices, Black Lives” reading lists for each specific school section.

Royal Grammar School Newcastle

RGS Newcastle has been actively teaching issues around Black History Month and also has seen some very impressive student-led activities and guided independent deeper study. The Sixth Form produced whole-school assemblies that raised thought provoking issues on American perspectives in particular. Year 9 have a section of the curriculum for Black History Month, ensuring all students engage in this during their time at the School. Activities have included the Slave Trade, Cecil Rhodes, the Zulu Wars and British India, including discussions on Robert Clive. Year 9 students made sure the PSHE displays were up to date by putting up the official Black History Month posters. All Sixth Formers are given access to the Historical Association, with webinars and podcasts including the experiences of West Indian soldiers on the Western Front. The School makes good use of Teams to distribute wider reading across the whole School for students to consider, with a recent excellent article from the Guardian tracing European perspectives on African History read and discussed.

The Grammar School at Leeds

The Grammar School at Leeds celebrated Black History Month with a wide variety of activities, including a BHM inspired Oxjam music festival with students performing hits by Black artists such as Tracy Chapman, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock. Music was a key theme to the celebrations and professional dance company, Toussaint to Move delivered a memorable performance and workshop for senior school students; whilst primary pupils enjoyed an Afrobeats dance class run by the school’s sixth formers. Leeds West Indian Carnival organiser, Mahalia France and historian, Danny Friar, also came in to talk to students about the history of this much-loved event which takes place less than 3 miles from the school, and was first started by Mahalia’s father, Arthur, in 1967.

Other activities included Primary reading time devoted to books by Black authors; and GSAL’s librarian, Mr Clements, presenting a lively discussion on Diversity in Fiction to senior school. Students also took part in an essay-writing competition on Black British history. The highlight of the activities was acclaimed writer, broadcaster and former English teacher, Jeffrey Boakye’s whole school assembly in which he talked about his new book exploring the musical history of modern Black Britain.

Wellington School

Wellington School celebrated Black Heritage Week, as part of Black History Month with assemblies, lessons and tutor groups focused on elements of Black culture and identity. In Maths lessons, students talked about the film Hidden Figures and discussed the issues and Mathematics which the film highlights. English students researched key black figures from John Agard’s poem Checking Out Me History and created their own poems. Year 7 Geographers related their study of the rainforest to slavery driven by sugar production in tropical regions.

In Music, the spotlight was on a wide range of black musicians who made a significant contribution to the history of music. Beginning with a trumpeter in the court of Henry VIII and progressing right up to the contemporary scene with Courtney Pine, via symphonic composers, jazz musicians and, of course, the iconic Stevie Wonder and Motown Bassist James Jamerson. Students listened, researched and presented ahead of and during their class lessons throughout the week.

Latin and Classical Civilisation students have been looking at the heroic Memnon, a mythological king of Ethiopia, and how he was portrayed in Greek and Roman art and literature, and then using that to think about the role of black people in the Classical world.

Year 9 History students learned about the vital role played by soldiers of the British Empire in World War One, and learned about the story of Walter Tull – one of the first black British footballers and the first ever black British officer to command white troops in World War One. Psychology Club studied the work of the influential black psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark, a husband and wife team who investigated how racial identity develops in children and were important figures in the civil rights movement, helping to end racial segregation in American schools.

Children in the Prep School started the week looking at the Windrush and sharing photos of family members who came from the Caribbean  and looked at Black Olympian Jesse Owens; his life and times and his achievements at the 1936 Olympic Games. Year 3 learnt about how local people in Bristol worked hard for equal rights by arranging the Bristol bus boycott in 1963. This boycott resulted in companies changing their employment laws in the United Kingdom.

Colfe’s School

While Black History Month is celebrated in the UK during October, Colfe’s programme of activities to raise awareness of Black history continues throughout the academic year.

This term Rosie (Y13), Ashlynn (Y11), Justin (Y10) and Isis (Y10) led an assembly for Years 7-9 exploring how Black history is part of everyone’s history and spoke about their own personal Black heroes. Meanwhile in PSHEE sessions, form tutors ran a Black History Month quiz, which parents can view via MyColfe’s.

The History curriculum in the Senior School has been covering topics such as ‘Who were the Black Tudors?’ examining several ‘hidden’ Black figures from the Early Modern Period; and ‘Whose World War’ comparing different experiences of people of race in World War 1, including Jamaican pilot Will Robbie Clark and those involved in the Cardiff Race Riots of 1919. November’s Remembrance Assembly will focus on the Pilots of the Caribbean who fought alongside allied troops in the war.

In Design and Technology, Year 9 pupils have been working on a project inspired by the work of Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, and Trinidadian designer, Althea McNish.

In the Junior School diversity, inclusion and Black history have been embedded into the curriculum and pupils are encouraged to explore different perspectives within individual topics. Following the Black History Month theme of ‘Proud To Be’, Humanities lessons have looked at professional Black footballer and World War 1 soldier, Walter Tull, and the role of forces from the British Colonies in World War 2. Pupils in Year 6 have been studying great speeches of our time in English, including Barack Obama’s Selma 50th Anniversary speech and Martin Luther King’s infamous ‘I Have a Dream’.

Pupils and staff also had the opportunity to sample dishes from Jamaica. The catering team at Thomas Franks created a delicious menu consisting of Jamaican pepper pot soup to start followed by brown stew with chicken or callaloo and potato stew, finishing with a Jamaican fruit cake and custard for dessert.

Repton School

Repton School has enjoyed focusing on a month of activities around Black History Month. The emphasis this year for the School has been on pupil leadership, and it has been excellent to see the pupils engaging in such a positive and energetic way with a range of pupil led initiatives which have raised awareness and celebrated the richness and diversity of heritage in Black History.

At the start of the month the pupils decorated the School tuck shop with a series of inspirational quotes for pupils to read as they waited in the queue. President Obama has also been a welcome and constant presence in the shop throughout the month of October.

The School prefects created a timeline of Black History in the US and UK on the glass foyer of the School theatre – an area of School which all pupils walk past on a daily basis. This included over 60 influential dates and became an interesting talking point as pupils and staff discussed the key turning points in Black History.

A Prefect-led Chapel service for Years 12 and 13 provided an informative insight into the lives of some lesser-known figures in Black History with the students talking passionately about the impact of these figures and the inspiration they provided. The figures and institutions which were included in this Chapel Service were personally identified and researched by the pupils who linked these to the theme of “Proud to be” which has been at the heart of Black History Month this year.

All pupils have received “Quotes of the Day” and information on different figures, with encouragements to delve further into their lives and influences. These have ranged from the work done by Doreen Lawrence, Marcus Rashford and Thurgood Marshall to the impacts of Rosa Parks and the poet Amanda Gorman. An U6th pupil shared the findings of her EPQ in a superb presentation which looked at the impact of the election of Obama to the White House and whether this key event signalled the beginning of a Post-racial America. The School Prefects also helped to create the material for a School tutor period for Year 9, 10 and 11 pupils which focused on British black history. The focus on British history in the tutor period was at the suggestion of BAME pupils in the School. This included discussion on the Windrush scandal and also on Stephen Lawrence with information researched and provided by the U6th. Pupils were sent a series of ideas for the half term holiday. This included a set of recommendations – Something to watch, something to read and something to listen to. Again the ideas for this came from the pupils themselves. The English department have also set a challenge through a creative writing competition – ‘Raising Your Voice’. We look forward to seeing the entries for this, which will no doubt be shaped by many of the activities and pupil led initiatives which have taken place over the course of October.

Please see here to view Repton School’s Black History Month publication. The publication features pupil articles and is produced and edited by the pupils themselves.

Royal Grammar School (Guildford)

This year, staff worked alongside the Sixth Form’s D&I group to create a programme of events to celebrate Black History Month. The school started the month with a ‘reflection’ from a Sixth Former in our whole-school assembly and the Sixth Form also led assemblies for our Year 7s and Year 9s. The History Society put on a series of presentations about Black British History in Surrey and we invited in Paul Crooks, a specialist in African Caribbean Genealogy to speak to all the Year 8s, as well as putting on a lunchtime talk for other year groups. The film, Black Panther was shown at lunchtime over the course of the two weeks. In our students’ daily newsletter (RGS Today), the D&I group included Black role models, past and present.

A number of departments also celebrated Black History Month in their lessons and we have included some examples below: Politics students looked at the origins of the major political parties in the US, their complex relationships with race, and then at who votes for whom, exploring race as a key determinant. In Classics, Greek students learned about Memon, King of the Ethiopians who was an ally of King Priam of Troy. There was a rolling display on the electronic boards about notable Black characters from Ancient History and Mythology, such as Andromeda (daughter the King of Ethiopia), Hannibal (from Carthage in modern day Tunisia) and the emperor Septimius Severus (born in Libya).

The Art department set up a display with art books, magazines and brief biographies of Black and Asian artists, all contemporary and most who live in the UK. The department also did a workshop with the Year 7 students on Frank Bowling, a British artist originally from Guyana. He is a colourist and also interested in expressing his own identity in his work. Students looked at his paintings from the 70s which incorporated maps and had a go at doing the same.


27 October 2021