Black History Month at Oxford | University of Oxford

Black History Month at Oxford

As Oxford University delivers another engaging and informative programme for Black History Month during October 2020, here we bring together talks, events, resources and initiatives all in one place for you.

Black History Month 2020 provides us with another opportunity to recognise and share the outstanding contributions people of African and Caribbean descent have made throughout history.

Oxford University will once again join in the event, exploring those contributions both globally and right here in our city and University.

Here you will find talks, clubs and events for the general public, staff and students as well as resources, further reading and projects to be part of during Black History Month and beyond...

Events open to all - still to come (November)

The following events and talks are open for members of the public and University staff and students...

The Economics of Discrimination

Department of Economics: Business Economics Programme

An online seminar on the economic impact of discrimination across our society.

How does parental income, or the lack of, affect a person’s chances of future success? Do banks discriminate when lending? How is Technology impacting changes in the labour market and could this contribute to reducing gender gaps or inequalities in access to employment? These are a few of the questions which will be discussed across the three lectures, as the online seminar explores the findings from the Department of Economics' latest research - including how policies translate to strategies and actions - and share real-world accounts of organisations and individuals effecting positive change.

Each lecture will be an hour, followed by a 30-minute panel discussion where delegates are encouraged to ask questions and interact with a panel of industry leaders.

Find out more about all the lectures, prices, how to register and read about the speakers and panellists here

(The events are free for students.)

Equality and Diversity Lecture 2020 - Critical Race Theory

Wednesday 4 November (6.30pm-8pm)

Free event. Booking required.

Hosted by: Faculty of Law

Speaker: Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law at Columbia University

Oxford Law invites you to join us for this year's Equality and Diversity Lecture, which will be given by Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law at Columbia University.

Drawing on interdisciplinary writing about the law and politics of race, Professor Thomas will offer a critical account of the recent attack on Critical Race Theory by the Trump administration and its allies, arguing that President Trump's assault is best seen as the latest historical chapter in the legal and political 'weaponization' of 'compulsory racial illiteracy'.

Book online and find out more.

The importance of young voices in British media 

Wednesday 25 November (1pm-2pm)

Speaker: Izin Akhabau, Online Editor, The Voice

Izin Akhabau will speak about her experience as the online editor of The Voice, the UK's only Afro-Caribbean newspaper. She spoke about her work in this short video. Akhabau has written for the BBC, the Independent, the Metro and the i paper among others.

Hosted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford

Find out more 

Sign up to enjoy the online event here

Black Oxford Scholars: Virtual Tour

On any university walking or sightseeing tour, you can hear about the history of the colleges, and the famous alumni – Oscar Wilde, Percy Shelly, Bill Clinton, C.S.Lewis, and Margaret Thatcher – to name a few, but what about its black scholars?

The University of Oxford had many black students from America, Africa, and the Commonwealth pass through its esteemed colleges throughout history.

This personalised curated 90-minute visual and immersive journey takes you through the cobbled streets of the city to hear about the University's black scholars, from the first pioneers, Christian Frederick Cole, the first black scholar, Kofoworola Moore, the first woman to achieve a degree, Alain LeRoy Locke, the first Rhodes scholar, with many more scholars featured, all from the comfort of your home.

The tours are delivered by Pamela Roberts, historian, and founder and director of Black Oxford Untold Stories

Book your place here.

Passed events

University of Oxford Black History Month Lecture

Diversity Activism: to do or not to do?

Margaret Casely-Hayford, CBE

Thursday 22 October (5.30pm-7pm)

The University of Oxford's Equality and Diversity Unit and the BME Staff Network are honoured to welcome back it's celebrated alumna to give this year's Black History Month lecture...

Some say that activist movements like BLM and the Women’s Equality movements are counter-productive. Are they?

Photograph of Margaret Casely-HayfordMargaret Casely-Hayford will give this year's Black History Month Lecture
Margaret Casely-Hayford, CBE, is a British lawyer, business woman and public figure who is active in the public sector. She was appointed to the Chair of Shakespeare's Globe and Chancellor of Coventry University in 2018. Casely-Hayford has had a distinguished career in law as a Director of Legal Services and Company Secretary for John Lewis Partnership following on from 20 years with a City law firm.

Her portfolio includes advising young entrepreneurs, and supporting and advising organisations on governance and advising those, in particular women and BAME or LGTBQ+ people, who wish to embark upon board careers. She is passionate about establishing diversity on boards and is an ambassador of Board Apprentice.

She champions better governance and democratic processes, and this year, was appointed to the Institute of Directors’ Governance Advisory Board, and made a Fellow of the Institute of Public Impact.

The lecture will be virtual. Registration is free on Eventbrite here 

Live Online Event: Talking Afropean

Afropean Book Cover

Thursday 22 October (5pm-6pm)

Free event. Booking not required.

Johny Pitts in conversation with Elleke Boehmer and Simukai Chigudu about his award-winning book.

Watch event here

This Writers Make Worlds and TORCH panel discussion features the author Johny Pitts in conversation about his ground-breaking travelogue Afropean, his 2019 notes on a journey around contemporary Black Europe.

Johny Pitts will explore together with Oxford academics Simukai Chigudu and Elleke Boehmer questions of black history, hidden archives, decolonization and community, and what it is to be black in Europe today.

Hailed as a work that reframes Europe, Afropean was the 2020 winner of the Jhalak Prize.

Find out more here

Christian Frederick Cole: The Story of England's first Black Barrister

Wednesday 21 October (6.30pm-7.30pm)

Hosted by the Faculty of Law

The evening will begin with the screening of the film Christian Frederick Cole, followed by a presentation.

Pamela Roberts' lecture will illustrate how Cole’s life intersected the complex intertwining of education, politics, and race in the early 20th century.

His impetus in travelling from Sierra Leone in 1873 to become the University of Oxford’s first black scholar. How he navigated the challenges and financial barriers at the University in a Victorian era of colonialism, and racial superiority promoted by fellow student, Cecil John Rhodes. His political consciousness, advocating for Black Lives through his seminal poetry Reflections of a Zulu War, against imperialism, and finally his historic achievement.

Find out more and book online here.

The Sam Sharpe Lecture 2020: ‘Man against the System’

Monday 12 October (7pm)

Speaker: Bishop Wilton Powell, OBE

This annual lecture series is in honour of the Jamaican Baptist and national hero Sam Sharpe and seeks to address ongoing issues of racial injustice.

Join the webinar here.

On  25 March 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act entered the statute books.  Yet centuries before the passing of this Act, Black bodies were rendered insubstantial and insignificant under British law. How on earth did Sam Sharpe, an enslaved Jamaican Baptist Deacon, help to dismantle an oppressive system endorsed by Queen and country, and overturn laws that sought to dehumanise black lives?

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, examining matters around protest or silence, oppression or liberation, have become all-important issues.  These topics have been forced from the background into the foreground.

Bishop Wilton Powell will grapple with one of black history's perennial questions; how did this enslaved Baptist deacon upset the status quo and usher in a semblance of hope for the global black family? 

The Sam Sharpe project is co-sponsored by the Centre for Baptist Studies and the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture at Regent’s Park College. 

What is data bias, and why should journalists pay attention to it?

Safiya Noble, Associate Professor, UCLA

Wednesday 14 October (4pm-5pm)

Professor Safiya Noble, associate professor at UCLA, and author of the book Algorithms of Oppression, will explain data bias and what can be done to fix it.

Professor Noble is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). She also holds appointments in African American Studies and Gender Studies. She is a Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford and has been appointed as a Commissioner on the Oxford Commission on AI & Good Governance (OxCAIGG). She is a board member of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, serving those vulnerable to online harassment.

Hosted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford

Find out more

Sign up to enjoy this event online here

Hear Safiya Noble discuss Challenging the Algorithms of Oppression:

We Were Here! African Scholars at the University of Oxford

Speaker: Pamela Roberts

Monday 26 October (5pm)

Hertford College is delighted to welcome historian, author and founding director of Black Oxford Untold Stories, Pamela Roberts for this lecture. Africa has a long tradition of sending its sons and daughters to the University of Oxford, starting with the first black scholar, Christian Frederick Cole, from Sierra Leone, West Africa in 1873. Join Pamela Roberts for this lecture exploring the path, structural racism, and barriers navigated by several African scholars who came to the University, studied and succeeded.

Free. Register on eventbrite here.

Pamela Roberts FRSA, FRHistS: Pamela is an award-winning creative producer, historian, author, and Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow at the British Library. Her work has challenged the historical and traditional structures of one of the oldest universities in Britain as the founder and director of Black Oxford Untold Stories.  Through its delivery of workshops, lectures, and events programme, Black Oxford Untold Stories has contributed significantly to disrupting the traditional narrative and visual imagery of the University of Oxford. Pamela's seminal work as the initiator for formal recognition for Christian Frederick Cole resulted in the acquisition of a memorial plaque at University College, unveiled in October 2017.  

Race Equality in Higher Education

Saturday 28 October (1.30pm-2.45pm)

Speakers: Dr Foluke Ifejola Adebisi, Professor Iyiola Solanke, Dr Machilu Zimba

Hosted by: Faculty of Law - Zoom Webinar (online)

Free. Booking required.

This year has been marked by the horrific murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate number of black lives lost due to COVID-19.
These tragedies have moved people to protest for change and to challenge the structures that made them a reality. While society must take stock of the level of racism that persists to date, universities are particularly required to do so under the Public Sector Equality Duty.
Therefore, during this panel discussion, we will be reflecting on how far the Higher Education sector has come in addressing racial inequalities and consider how much further it still needs to travel to make sure our institutions are a truly equal space.

Find out more and register in advance here.

Ten-Minute Book Club

During August, the University of Oxford launched a digital project called Ten-Minute Book Club, releasing an extract from novels, essays, poems or short stories each week until October. As the name suggests, the extracts are short enough to be read in ten minutes.

Each extract, posted every Friday, has been chosen by Oxford academics, and is paired with free resources and an introduction by an expert suggesting themes or contexts to think about as you read, by yourself or in discussion with family, friends, colleagues, or anyone else you’d like to connect with.

It's an initiative by the English faculty at Oxford, led by Dr Alexandra Paddock, Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr and Dr Erica Lombard. 

You can find out more about the books which featured and read extracts here

The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano book coverBooks featured include: The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano

Who has the right to write their life? This, above all, is the question that Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative poses. As a genre, autobiography rests on notions of authenticity, self-consciousness, and unique selfhood that for centuries have been claimed as exclusive characteristics of the white man. The very act of a black man – a freed enslaved man – writing his own life was radical when Equiano published The Interesting Narrative in 1789. Find out more here

Student-led events


Intersectional Discussions for an Ethical Archaeology (IDEA) is a new student-run event series created by the Oxford Archaeological Society and Graduate Archaeology at Oxford.

IDEA aims to recognise current ethical issues in archaeology and highlight the voices of marginalised groups in archaeological research.

Events will take the form of an hour-long discussion group guided by some preparatory reading which aims to address a specific ethical issue in archaeology, and highlight the voices of those whose social identities have been marginalized and/or erased in archaeological research. A short reading list will be sent out that will examine each particular issue in detail, then the weekly meetings will be a chance to discuss ways in which archaeology can build towards a more inclusive and ethical future for the field. 

Join in every Tuesday at 5pm on Microsoft Teams starting on October 13 with Post-Colonial Theory in Archaeology. 

Events are open to the general public, but mostly aimed at students and heritage professionals.

Find out more

Events for University members

The following events and talks are for University staff and students...

Exploring the Data Visualizations of W.E.B. Du Bois

Virtual talk to mark Black History Month in the Department of Statistics

Friday 23 October (3.30pm-4.45pm)

Speaker: Jason Forrest, Director of Interactive Data Visualization, McKinsey & Co, New York

W. E. B. Du Bois at the Paris International Exposition 1900W. E. B. Du Bois at the Paris International Exposition 1900. Image: University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
At the 1900 Paris Exposition, an all African-American team lead by scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois sought to challenge and recontextualize the perception of African-Americans at the dawn of the 20th-century. In less than five months, his team conducted sociological research and hand-made more than 60 large data visualization posters for a massive European audience which ultimately awarded Du Bois a gold medal for his efforts. While relatively obscure until recently, the ramification of his landmark work remains challenging and especially important in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Biography: Jason Forrest is a data visualization specialist, writer, and designer living in New York City. He is the director of interactive data visualization for McKinsey and Company's COVID Response Center. In addition to being on the board of directors of the Data Visualization Society, he is also the editor-in-chief of Nightingale: the journal of the Data Visualization Society. He writes about the intersection of culture and information design and is currently working on a book about Otto Neurath's Isotype methodology. In addition to this, Forrest is an electronic musician who has performed around the world including Glastonbury and Primavera Festivals.

Please complete the short registration form here.  You will receive an email confirmation containing the Zoom link details.

How We Got Here, Where To Now?

Oxford Seminar in Music Theory and Analysis

Speaker: Philip Ewell (Hunter College, New York)

Wednesday 21 October (4.30pm-6pm)

'The societal tipping point that is so often cited in the United States these days is intimately linked with our past, a troubled and, at times, violent past that has infused virtually everything that we Americans do. This past is now under great scrutiny in music studies, in how we teach music to our students, how we examine music in analysis, and how we choose the music we professional musicians consider worthy of attention.

'In this talk I consider our past so that we might chart a path for the future. Only through an exhaustive study of the past can we truly understand why the academic study of music is what it is today, a study that remains exclusionist with respect to musics that are not centered around both whiteness and maleness. In coming to terms with this difficult past we together – white, black, and everyone in between – can create a new academic study of music, rich and inclusive, which will be rewarding and emancipating for all.'

To prepare for this seminar, all attendees are strongly encouraged to read in advance Professor Ewell’s recent article, Music theory and the white racial frame in Music Theory Online.

Philip Ewell is an Associate Professor of Music Theory at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he serves as Director of Graduate Studies in the music department. His specialties include Russian music and music theory, Russian opera, modal theory, and critical-race studies. He received the 2019-2020 Presidential Award for Excellence in Creative Work at Hunter College, and he is the Susan McClary and Robert Walser Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies for 2020-21. He is also a Virtual Scholar in Residence at the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music for 2020-21. As a result of his ACLS award, he is currently working on a monograph combining race and feminist studies with music and music theory.

The Oxford Seminar in Music Theory and Analysis (OSiMTA) meets two or three times a term. Its convenors are Professor Jonathan Cross and Dr Sebastian Wedler. Find out more

Most seminars are open to all, including the general public. Sessions last 90 minutes and lively discussion is encouraged. They take place on Wednesday afternoons, beginning at 4.30pm (currently via Zoom).

Please note that attendance at this seminar is currently restricted to Oxford University members only. University members please sign up via this form. You have until the 15 October to do so, after that point we will open registration to non-University members if we have not reached capacity. Free event.

Find out more

Events for alumni

The following events have been organised for alumni...

Thinking Liberation

Dr Anthony Reddie and Dr Kate Kirkpatrick in conversation, discussing the formative influences, inspiring figures and shared hopes for their respective work in black liberation theology and feminist philosophy.

Thursday 1 October (6pm).

Open to alumni of Regent's Park College

Dr Anthony Reddie is Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture at Regent's Park College. He is a prolific author on the interface between black theology and practical theology and is in regular demand as a contributor to discussions related to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Dr Kate Kirkpatrick is Fellow in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Director of Studies in Philosophy and an alumna of Regent's Park College. A leading expert on Simone de Beauvoir, her latest book Becoming Beauvoir: A Life is being translated into 12 languages, was a book of the year in the TLS and The Guardian, and recently featured as ‘Paperback of the Week’ in the Sunday Times.

Free event. Register for your tickets here

Useful resources

Writers Make Worlds

The Writers Make Worlds is a project run by Professor Elleke Boehmer and the website features resources on over 40 Black and Asian British writers:

About the project: Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds asks how our reading of British literature shapes our sense of identity in Britain today. We are particularly interested in thinking about how Black and Asian writing in Britain works as a dynamic cultural and imaginative medium through which new ways of thinking about Britain, and Britain in the world, can be worked out.

Race and leadership in the news media 2020: evidence from five markets

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has published this research looking at the backgrounds of senior news leaders in five countries including the UK, finding that black people are severely under-represented. The research was recently referenced by the BBC

Black Indigenous People of Colour STEM Network – Register Interest

The first STEM network within Oxford University, for research staff, academic staff, and postgraduates that identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) or BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) is about to launch. Aims are to: 

  • Create an inclusive social support group  
  • Highlight the contributions of People of Colour in STEM within the University of Oxford and beyond 
  • Provide a platform for professional networking and career development 
  • Nurture a welcoming environment to raise awareness of racial issues and shared experiences 

BIPOC STEM Network Co-Conveners explain: 'While the University benefits from networks for Women and LGBTQ+ in STEM, we recognised the need for a similar network for People of Colour within academia too. People of Colour often suffer from a lack of representation and focused support within individual departments, which is why we want to bring together individuals across STEM fields to join the collective and build a thriving network.

'Initially, we would like to reach out to individuals across the university to register their interest and gain some feedback about the forthcoming actions of the network. We kindly encourage people that identify as BIPOC/BAME, as well as allies, to fill out this short form. We look forward to your responses!'

TORCH resources

The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities share relevant research networks and content on the TORCH site:

Race and Resistance across Borders in the Long Twentieth Century: Launched in January 2013, the Race and Resistance programme brings together researchers, students, and activists in the history, literature, and culture of anti-racist movements across the modern world.

Conversations on Identity, Ethnicity and Nationhood: This network gathers scholars across disciplines to foster conversations around identity, ethnicity, and nationalism, considering in particular the constantly shifting definitions and uses of racial discourses, their intersection with religious identities, and the gendered dynamics of national and imperial discourses across cultural contexts.

Migration and Mobility: While the University houses two interdisciplinary research centres explicitly dedicated to the research of these themes (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society and Refugee Studies Centre), these tend to be

Race and Resistance across Borders in the Long Twentieth CenturyRace and Resistance across Borders in the Long Twentieth Century
primarily based in social scientific approaches. This network therefore wants to reach across and beyond the existing migration research centres, to bring researchers of all aspects of migration and mobility from the University together to develop the migration and mobility research agendas at Oxford, to foster synergies for future collaborative cross- and interdisciplinary projects, and thereby generate a deeper understanding of mobility.

A roundtable discussion recording: Empire and Identity: Imperial Rule and Peoplehood Across Time and Place

A roundtable discussion recording: 'In Conversation' event between Prof Barbara D. Savage and Bonnie Greer, chaired by Dr Rebecca Fraser (UEA)

Read the blog posts from Race and Resistance across Borders in the Long Twentieth Century her:

Why teaching migration, belonging and Empire should be supported and fully funded in secondary schools

Co-authored by Jason Todd, PGCE History Tutor in the Department of Education, Oxford, the report calls on the government to support and fully fund the teaching of migration, including Empire, in secondary schools though.

Read the report here

Oxford and colonialism: then and now

Working Group on Oxford University and Colonialism led by Laura Van Broekhoven and Kalypso Nicolaidis