Manchester Libraries celebrate role of black scientists during Black History Month

  • Libraries to spotlight a different black innovator each Saturday during Black History Month
  • Videos will be posted on libraries' Facebook pages
  • Part of series of activities to celebrate black culture throughout October

Science fans get to experiment in the footprints of black innovators during the Black History Month organised by Manchester Libraries.

Black pioneers in science, technology, engineering and maths are being celebrated in a series of live events called STEM Club Online on the libraries’ Facebook page.

Each Saturday in October at 11 am, community engagement officer Siobhan O’Connor and her colleagues from Manchester Libraries will upload a video introducing a different figure from black science history along with try-at-home experiments.

Viewers will get to know NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who played a critical role in the space race between America and Russia during the Cold War.

mathematician katherine johnson at nasa in 1966, image from Wikimedia Commons
Katherine Johnson is honoured for her “historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist” by the American space agency. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

She thrived in a career as a research mathematician when this was a tough field for African Americans and especially African American women. Katherine was portrayed as a lead character in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.

Other Saturdays are dedicated to scientist and DJ Mark Richards, inventor Granville Wood and space scientist and BBC presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Each event includes a practical experiment inspired by the person’s work.

The STEM Club was started in January and taken online after Covid-19 hit. Now is the first time the experiments are linked to specific scientists.

The videos are not always labelled as Black History Month specials. Community engagement officer Siobhan O’Connor said: “We should be doing this anyway. I view October as the launching of things we want to do throughout the year.”

In the future, her team wants to recruit STEM ambassadors among Manchester scientists as well as volunteers to help share experiments with children and young people.

Siobhan said: “Anybody who wants to get involved to deliver family friendly activities is welcome, especially when live events start again.”

The black innovators series of STEM Club Online is part of a bundle of activities planned by Manchester Libraries in October for Black History Month.

Other events focus on local black poets and artists, like the virtual crafting sessions with artist Simone.

Manchester black professionals offer career conversations to young people interested in becoming writers, teachers and barristers.

Author and family historian Paul Crooks shares how he traces his ancestors, who were slaves on a Caribbean sugar plantation 200 years ago.

The full programme can be found on the libraries’ blog.