Cambridge celebrates past & present black Cambridge Uni students in exhibition

By Jasmine Wing | @JasmineW_BN

From 18th century poets to an African princess, portraits of Cambridge’s iconic black graduates will line the Royal Corridor of Cambridge University Library in a new show.

“Black Cantabs: History Makers” is an exhibition of portraits of black Cambridge students, telling the story of 260 years of black scholarship, from forgotten pioneers of centuries past to the celebrated successes of today.

Featuring trailblazers from the first black British army officer to the first female composer to have a composition played at the Proms, the exhibition will feature famous faces such as Zadie Smith, Westworld star Thandie Newton and ‘Miss Moneypenny’ Naomie Harris alongside rare archive images, including of Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya.

New portraits have been taken for the exhibition by the city of Cambridge’s chief chronicler, Sir Cam, including of classical composer Errollyn Wallen, director Justina Kehinde and MP Diane Abbott.

These portraits hang in the University Library’s Royal Corridor, the first time this space has been used for a new exhibition. The collection aims to reinvent the traditional Cambridge portrait students may see on a daily basis and the opening marks the first day of the UK’s Black History Month (1 October).

The exhibition has been organised with the help of the Black Cantabs Research Society, a student group dedicated to telling the lost or forgotten stories of Cambridge’s black alumni.

Society president Surer Mohamed said: “Black Cantabs: History Makers demonstrates the indelible mark that black students of the University of Cambridge have had here, and across the globe.

“This celebrates the Black Cantabs who have come before and hopefully demonstrates to prospective black students that they do have a home in Cambridge. It’s a remarkable opportunity!”

Last month the first ever “Stormzy scholarships” launched, and the arrival of the first two Stormzy scholars at Cambridge will coincide with the opening of the exhibition. Read more here.

Black Cantabs: History Makers runs from 1 October – 22 December at the University Library, before touring the University and Colleges.

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