The UK’s first Black barrister who studied at Oxford

Picture of a plaque
Picture of a plaque
Despite making history twice, Christian Cole is not as well known as he should be

In 2017, the University of Oxford unveiled a plaque dedicated to a man named Christian Cole.

The dedication read: “The first black African to be awarded an Oxford degree and to practise law in an English court was made a member of University College Oxford in 1877.” But there is a lot more to his story.

Up until 1871, students who wished to study at Oxford had to be Anglican, as Queen Elizabeth I had made it a requirement for students to swear oath to the monarch and church in 1581. This obstacle was removed by the university in 1854 in principle – but in reality, many colleges remained closed to non-Anglicans.

Despite his incredible achievements, Cole’s name is not well-known, with the plaque commemorating him only recently being erected. At the unveiling of the plaque, the BBC reported that the master of University College said the plaque should be “a symbol of our continued commitment to recognising and supporting the brightest students, whatever their backgrounds”.