Introduction to Black History Month

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya and Professor Ruth Taylor,
Senior Race Champions and co-conveners of the Race Equality Strategy Group

October marks the start of Black History Month in the UK, a time to celebrate the extraordinary contributions that black people have made in the UK and beyond. Black History Month was initiated by historian Cater G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African Life and History (ASALH) in 1926 in the US to promote the study of Black history and acknowledge achievements of black people. It is now observed across the world and continues to inspire new generations of people. 

This year the University has developed a programme of events, blogs, podcasts and talks which will provide opportunities for our community to engage with the objectives of this celebration – to dig deeper, look closer, think bigger.

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Our Black History Month programme has been a co-production involving staff and students submitting their ideas for a multitude of events.

From Nathaniel King (MB 1876), the first African-born graduate of the University of Aberdeen to Christopher James Davis, a remarkable Aberdeen-trained doctor credited with saving hundreds of lives during the Franco-Prussian War, we celebrate the achievements of Black students who shaped the University’s past.

We also look forward to hearing from emerging young poet and spoken word artist Jayda David, who will lead a spoken word workshop with themes varying from Identity to Black British History to Mental Health and everything in-between, and critically acclaimed Zimbabwean author, Tendai Huchu will lead a discussion giving a glimpse into Zimbabwean identity to texturise the celebration of diverse Black identities.

As some of the content for Black History Month demonstrates, there have also been times in our history when we as a University have fallen short and our blog on the University’s links to the slave trade makes for uncomfortable but important reading.

While Black History Month provides an important window to celebrate and reflect, we are also aware that as a society and as a University, we have much more to do to ensure racial equality.

As part of our commitment to support work to tackle racism across the sector, we have:

  • Embedded Inclusion as a key strategic priority in Aberdeen 2040 and are developing a clear set of Key Performance Indicators in this area
  • Signed up to Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter which aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education, as well as the British Medical Association Charter on Racial Harassment and the Advance HE declaration on Race.
  • Established an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee with representatives from across the University including students and a Race Equality Strategy Group which will steer the development of a University Race Equality Strategy, including curriculum reviews and tackling sector-wide issues– The development of an action plan to address the recommendations of the report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, entitled Tackling Racial Harassment: Universities Challenged
  • Established a Race Equality Network

It is important that we continue to work together as a community, as we have in the preparations for Black History Month, to ensure our curriculum is fully inclusive and to play our role in tackling the national attainment gap linked to race and ethnicity. 

View our programme

Read our Black History Month programme here

News & Updates

Keep up to date with all the latest news and updates about Black History Month at the University of Aberdeen.

Online Resources

From blogs to podcasts we will be posing a host of online resources for you to access anytime, anywhere.

Get Social

Following our social media accounts will keep you up to date with our latest Black History Month posts!


If you would like to  help us evaluate our events by completing our online feedback you can do so by clicking here.

Supported by:

 Development Trust Student Experience Fund
Directorate of People & the Directorate of External Relations.

Collaborators and Partners: Law School, WORD centre, BAME Forum, AUSA, Race Equality Network and Race and Racism Group (RRG), School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, Museums and Collections, Alumni and Student Experience.

Past events

Nigerian and Cameroon Independence Day

On October 1st 1960, Nigeria was granted independence from British Colonial rule. On the same day in 1961, southern Cameroon was also emancipated from British rule. In both nations, October 1st are national holidays celebrated with parades, parties and concerts.

Please check @ausabame for updates

Black Music Legends

Check out a selection of music from legendary black artists posted on Spotify and Apple music.
Please check @ausabame for updates

Black Pound Day

An event looking into the history and background of Black Pound Day and the importance of the Black Pound. The event will highlight black owned businesses locally in Aberdeen and online. 
Please check @ausabame for updates

Two Kings: Empire, Abolition, and Aberdeen

Nathaniel King (MB 1876) was the first African-born graduate of the University of Aberdeen. His father, Thomas King, rose from enslavement in West Africa to become a missionary and linguist. This talk explores the life of an African-born father and son and the connected histories of Scotland and early colonial West Africa.

Spoken Word Workshop with Jayda David

Brought to you by the WORD Centre for Creative Writing
Emerging young poet and spoken word artist Jayda David will lead a spoken word workshop with themes varying from Identity to Black British History to Mental Health and everything in-between

World Mental Health Day

Check out our social media sites for some infographics exploring mental health.
Please check @ausabame for updates

In conversation with Jamala Osman

Jamala will discuss her journey of pivoting from challenging circumstances to a life ‘spiralling into control’ and becoming Britain’s youngest bank manager at just 21 years old. As a speaker and spoken word artist Jamala continues to be a force for positive change.

Colonialism Isn't Dead

Join us for a talk covering research topics by students Annie Wilson and Hannah Ekekwe.

Racism in Sport and Society - Moving Forward

Former journalist and AFC commentator Dave Macdermid will discuss the issues of racism in sport and the positive impact sport can have in combatting racism in wider society.

With special guests Funso Ojo, Midfielder for Aberdeen Football Club, and Ged Grebby, Chief Executive of Show Racism the Red Card.

Online Panel Discussion with BAME groups and more

A discussion with groups from BAME Law, BAME Medic, Fem Soc and Disability Forum.
Please check @ausabame for updates

Centering Race in International Law

This lecture prepared to commemorate Black History Month at the University of Aberdeen in October 2020 will use examples of Scottish merchant adventurers and explorers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to show that race has always been at the center not only of colonial and imperial relations, but of present day international law. Written from the perspective of Third World Approaches to International Law, (TWAIL), the lecture makes the case for more scholarly inquiries to uncover the continuities and discontinuities of the role of race in international law and international relations.

America & Race, c. 1840-1940

The lecture will look at the movements for changing race relations in the US, largely from the perspective of African-American leaders from Abolitionism to resistance of Jim Crow Segregation.

Charles Heddle: An Afro-Scottish trader and the abolition of the slave trade in Sierra Leone

Son of two island folk: a Wolof signaré from the island of Gorée off the coast of Senegal, and an Orcadian doctor from the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, Heddle successfully navigated the waters between these two distant islands becoming the ‘merchant prince’ of the 19th century.

Black (Zimbabwean) Literary Imaginaries

Critically acclaimed Zimbabwean author, Tendai Huchu will lead a discussion giving a glimpse into Zimbabwean identity to texturise the celebration of diverse Black identities and his evolutionary journey as an author, sharing his transition from Zimbabwean literature to Scottish fantasy.

A Discussion: Underrepresentation of Black and Ethnic Minority Women in Scottish Politics

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh OBE, Scotland’s first and only female BAME MP, and Fatima Zahra Joji, a director of the 50:50 Parliament campaign will participate in a panel discussion to consider why there is such underrepresentation of Black women and women from within other ethnic minority groups in Scottish politics.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor - Music, Life, Legacy

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was among the best-known composers of his day. This forum, featuring author and music educator Nate Holder, will introduce some of Coleridge-Taylor's most celebrated compositions and explore his political activism.

In conversation with Professor Christopher Jackson

Academic, adventurer and the first black scientist to give the prestigious Royal Institute Christmas Lecture. Chris is a specialist in Basin Analysis and appeared in the BBC 2 series ‘Expedition volcano’ where he visited two of the world’s most volatile volcanoes on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Black Horror Showcasing’s and Recorded Lectures

A collaboration project with CineClub and the University’s Film and Visual Culture department showcasing Black Horror films.
Please check @ausabame for updates

North East Scotland and the Transatlantic slave trade

The history of Aberdeen and North-East Scotland is closely entangled with the history of transatlantic slavery. Many people in the North-East of Scotland promoted and profited from it, while others campaigned to end it. It is both world history and our local history.