BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

13 November 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

Local History

You are in: Oxford > History > Local History > Black History Month

Eric Williams

Eric Williams

Black History Month

The annual celebration of the history and culture of people of black origin across the UK.

Black History Month is a regular annual celebration of the history and culture of people of black origin across the UK, and Oxford University has been the training ground for many of the great and the good over the years.

Alain Locke, a student of Hertford College, was the first black scholar to take advantage of the Rhodes Trust Fund in 1907. Grantley Adams, a student at St Catherine's, went on to become the first Premier of Barbados. And John Kufuor, a graduate of Exeter College, achieved his ambition when he became President of his native Ghana. As great black scholars go, they weren't alone... and they weren't the first.

Christian Cole's book

Christian Cole's pamphlet

University College is one of the oldest colleges in Oxford and it also played an important role in Black History. It was there that Oxford's first black student graduated when Christian Cole from Sierra Leone studied Classics in 1873. At the time being black made him somewhat of a talking point, but Christian didn't seem to mind this, and in fact he rather played it to his advantage. On leaving college he wrote a pamphlet about the Zulu war, and used his colour to promote it.

Click below for an exclusive extended interview with Robin Darwall-Smith, archivist at University College, talking about Christian Cole. Cole was the grandson of a slave, son of a cleric and later became Britain's first black barrister. 

Williams (far left) in Oxford, 1930s

Williams (far left) in Oxford, 1930s

Eric Williams came to Oxford University in 1932 when black scholars were still few and far between. A memorial exhibition at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad celebrates his life as a student, an educator, and finally as a leader of the nation.

His daughter Erica accompanied him on most of his foreign trips and is the driving force behind the exhibition. Click below for our extended interview with her.

The personal files of Eric Williams' college days are still held in the archives at St Catherine's College in Oxford where they are proud to have played a part in grooming the young student for high office.

It was an important time in the Caribbean with several islands keen to break free from British rule. Eric Williams believed that freedom would only come through education. Once he'd installed his own government in 1956 he set about making education free for all.

Trinidad and Tobago PM Patrick Manning

Trinidad and Tobago PM Patrick Manning

The present government want to take that legacy even further. Trinidad's current Premier is a big fan of Eric Williams. He served under him as part of the government in the 1970s and we spoke to him about Williams' legacy. Click below to view the video.

Born the middle child of seven in a small Southern Rhodisian village near the Botswana border may not be the obvious early credentials of someone who was going to go on to be appointed Registrar of Christchurch College here in Oxford.

But for Millius Palayiwa it was the determination of his father that his children would receive a good education and not follow him into a job as a domestic servant that changed his life.

For our final interview Millius joined us to share his story of becoming one of Oxford's black scholars in the 70s, and how the university became an important part of his life.

last updated: 23/10/2008 at 14:46
created: 14/10/2008

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

stuart holloway
Another black Carribean leader who went to Oxford was Norman Manley from Jamaica who was at Jesus

You are in: Oxford > History > Local History > Black History Month

The Glyme Valley Way

The Glyme Valley Way



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy