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

Event date
21 October 2020
Event time
18:30 - 19:30
Oxford week
Pamela Roberts

Notes & Changes

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May 1883.  A black man enters the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey), stands in front of the Judge, Sir Thomas Chambers, assured and forthright. He delivers an eloquent plea on behalf of the defendant. Described by the court circular as possessing 'an unusual command of 'the tongue that Shakespeare spoke' a felicity of expression, good taste, and intellectual force.'

The University of Oxford Faculty of Law is delighted to welcome historian and the Founder and Director of Black Oxford Untold Stories, Pamela Roberts, to present:

Christian Frederick Cole: England's first Black Barrister

The evening begins with the screening of the film Christian Frederick Cole, followed by a presentation. Pamela’s 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. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.


Picture of Pamela Roberts

Pamela Roberts, FRSA, FRHistS, Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow at the British Library, JP, is an award-winning creative producer, historian, theatre-maker, author and the Founder and Director of Black Oxford Untold Stories.

Pamela established Black Oxford Untold Stories to recognise and celebrate the University's historical and contemporary black scholars from the turn of the 20th century to the present day.

Her seminal work as an initiator for formal recognition of Christian Frederick Cole, resulted in the acquisition of a memorial plaque, at University College, unveiled in October 2017. She has produced Cole’s entry for the Oxford University Press Dictionary of African Biography. Last year, she wrote, produce, and directed a short film about Cole. Pamela is also a sitting magistrate, serving on the Buckinghamshire Bench for over twelve years. She advocates for representation in the justice system through her work with Magistrate in the Community.


This event was graciously provided by Hogan Lovells. To find out more, please join them for a Virtual Evening Reception on Thursday, 22nd October 2020, at 18:30.

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Equality and Diversity