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Black Cantabs: History Makers

Black Cantabs: History Makers is an exhibition of stunning photographic portraits celebrating 260 years of Cambridge education for black Cambridge students and graduates, from the 1700s to the 21st century.

St Edmund's is proud to display six of these portraits, highlighting a journey through the history of the University of Cambridge from the first black male and female graduates to current students. 

The exhibition is showing in the Garden Room and available to view on request.

Alexander Crummel

Alexander Crummel (Queens’, 1848) is notable as Cambridge’s first black graduate.

As the son of an illiterate, freed slave, Alexander was a lifelong abolitionist, arriving in England in the 1840s to enlist Britons to the cause. He stayed to become the first black graduate from Cambridge. Later becoming a minister, Alexander developed the concept of Pan Africanism, drawing strongly on his faith to encourage people of African descent to come together in unity and solidarity.


Lt. David Clemetson

Lt. David Clemetson (Trinity, 1912) is notable as the British Army’s first black officer.

Lieutenant Clemetson was one of the only black officers serving in the British Army during the First World War. Born in Jamaica, David studied Law at Trinity, playing rugby, and rowing in the Lent Bumps. He left his studies in 1914 to enlist in the Sportsmen’s Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Killed in action at the Somme, he was posthumously awarded both the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.


Gloria Carpenter

Gloria Carpenter (Girton, 1945) is notable as Cambridge’s first black female graduate.

Jamaican born, Gloria studied Law at Cambridge and became a prominent social reformer, playing an instrumental role in the foundation of the Law Faculty of the University of West Indies in Jamaica. Her daughter, playwright Patricia Cumper, also became a Girton student, and published a book about her trailblazing mother, One Bright Child, in 1998.


Elizabeth Bagaaya

Elizabeth Bagaaya (Girton, 1959) is notable as a lawyer and Princess Royal of the Kingdom of Toro.

The Batebe (Princess Royal) of the Kingdom of Toro, Uganda, Elizabeth studied Law at Cambridge. In 1965 she became the first East African woman to be admitted to the English Bar. As well as being a practising barrister, Elizabeth also modelled, and was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.


Sharon White

Sharon White (Fitzwilliam, 1985) is notable as a British civil servant.

Daughter of immigrant parents who came to Britain from Jamaica in the 1950s, Sharon rose rapidly through the ranks of the civil service to become one of the most powerful women in Whitehall. In 2014, The Voice named her the 7th most powerful black person in Britain. In March 2015, she became chief executive of the communications regulator, Ofcom.


Bez Adeosun

Bez Adeosun (Clare, 2015) is notable as a star of viral ‘Black Men of Cambridge’ photo.

Bez is in his final year at Cambridge, studying Human, Social, and Political Sciences. He took part in the Cambridge African Caribbean Society's 'Black Men of Cambridge University' photographic campaign in 2017. A photo of the 2015 cohort went viral, opening up a debate about the importance of representation in inspiring young people to consider applying to the University.