October marks Black History Month, a time to commemorate the history and celebrate the achievements and contribution of black people in the UK. The month has been marked in February in the US since it was founded in 1970, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, and took route in the UK in 1987.
“We celebrate it to shine a spotlight on the inspiring people and influential events in history that define Black Britishness,” says Aisha Suleiman, chair of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN). “It’s an opportunity for us to focus on what we can teach all generations of all races about a past and a people of which some may have little awareness.
To mark the month, our Black Employee affinity group, BEN UK, are organising a series of events and activities for employees, including: Afro Caribbean Food Week, a Black History Session by Professor Hakim Adi who launched the world’s first online Masters by Research programme on the History of Africa and the African Diaspora, a talent coaching workshop by Sandra Berko and Empathy and Inclusion talk which will tackle the subject of privilege from multiple perspectives.
To kick off the celebration of Black History Month, here are some top books and movies about black history – as recommended by members of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN).
1. Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X
“I’m a massive book lover, so as a child my face was always buried in a book, and this is one of my favourites! Malcolm X is somebody I really look up to as an individual, because he taught me that you should always speak out against injustice. The way he spoke out about civil rights at the time was an incredibly brave feat. He also taught me that I can always change my mind, for example in the way he developed his views about civil rights as the movement progressed.” - Aisha Suleiman, Senior Recruitment Coordinator, Amazon Web Services and Chair of Black Employee Network UK.
2. Nelson Mandela – The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela
“I believe that Nelson Mandela is an individual who was at the pinnacle of black history. He helped us to understand apartheid – while growing up this was something my family were always aware of because he fought to spread the truth and never gave up in that pursuit for truth. Those characteristics of fighting for your rights and never giving up still inspire me to this day.” - Lucinda Opoku-Ababio, Internal Recruiter
3. WEB Du Bois – The Ordeal of Mansart
“WEB Du Bois has had a profound effect on black political culture, and this first book in his Black Flame trilogy is a really good starting point for anybody who’s new to his work. The Ordeal of Mansart represents all African American history by following the journey of one black man, Manuel Mansart, from birth to death.” - Ryan Little, Enablement Partner Instructor, Amazon Web Services
4. Mike & Trevor Phillips – Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain
“This is a great read, focusing on how people in the 1940s and 50s came from the Caribbean and Africa to the United Kingdom. It covers their experience of that change and their lives in Britain from that time right up until the present day, showing how that generation’s lives changed so drastically. It’s a brilliant book and I highly recommend it.” – Tireni Ladega, Associate Partner Manager
5. Ellen Levine – Henry’s Freedom Box
“If you have children, they’ll love this book. It’s about a boy who doesn’t know his own birthday and who has always lived in captivity as a slave, so he decides to mail himself out of captivity and towards freedom. We see his challenges as a slave child, the plans he makes, his intelligence and determination as a child to free himself from captivity. When he eventually steps out of the box, they call it his first birthday – his first day of freedom. Henry’s story is incredibly inspiring for parents and children alike.” - Lauren Azania AJ King-Yombo, Brand Specialist
6. I Am Not Your Negro (dir. Raoul Peck)
“This documentary film is inspired by an unfinished manuscript by the novelist James Baldwin called Remember This House. It explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin’s memories of the civil rights movement and its most prominent leaders, and it also brings the background of American history to life through his personal observations.” - Ryan Little, Enablement Partner Instructor, Amazon Web Services
7. Men of Honour (dir. George Tillman Jr.)
“This movie stars Cuba Gooding Jnr and is inspired by the true story of Carl Brashear, who was the first African American master diver in the United States Navy. Brashear overcame bigotry, racism and lots more to achieve his goals, so it’s an inspiring story – and I love an epic movie!” – Frederic Houinato, Finance Manager