Oxford’s first black graduate is being celebrated with a plaque at his Oxford college.
Christian Cole matriculated at Oxford in 1873 to read Classics, and graduated from Oxford in 1876. He became a member of University College in 1877 and became the first black African to practice law in English courts in 1883. On 14 October University College will unveil a plaque in his honour. The plaque is the result of a collaboration between the college and Pamela Roberts, director of the project Black Oxford: Untold Stories.
Sir Ivor Crewe, Master of University College, said: ‘University College is proud to call Christian Cole an Old Member and we are delighted to be able to honour him in this way. The plaque in Logic Lane will act as a permanent reminder of his remarkable achievements as well as a symbol of our continued commitment to recognising and supporting the brightest students whatever their backgrounds.’
Dr Rebecca Surender, Advocate and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Equality and Diversity at Oxford, said: ‘Christian Cole’s place in Oxford’s history as its first black graduate is one that deserves to be recognised and celebrated. The plaque will be a reminder of how far we have progressed since Cole graduated from Oxford, and of many more diverse stories of achievement and success. The University has made it a priority to celebrate Oxford’s diversity and reflect in its iconography the full range of Oxford’s history and the experiences of its members. The plaque at University College, like the University’s Diversifying Portraiture project, will encourage us to continue to celebrate the full diversity of our staff and student body.’
University College Archivist Dr Robin Darwall-Smith said: ‘I have long been an admirer of Christian Cole. His ambition and determination were remarkable, and I hope that he will continue to inspire future generations of students. It is very exciting to have his place in the history of Oxford celebrated in this way.’
Christian Cole was born in 1852 in Waterloo, Sierra Leone and enrolled at Oxford as a non-collegiate student in 1873 to read Classics. To supplement an income from his uncle, he taught music lessons and helped students prepare for their divinity exams. He became the first black African to achieve a degree from the University of Oxford in 1876. In 1877, he became a member of University College, and in 1879, a member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. He was called to the Bar in 1883, becoming the first black African to practice Law in English courts.
The plaque’s unveiling follows the launch of the Oxford Black Alumni Network, a campaign to connect Oxford’s black graduates and encourage future generations of leading black students in the UK.