The first Black African to achieve a degree from the University of Oxford  1876


A member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple






The first Black African to practise Law in the English HighCourt


This is one of only two caricature images which exist of Cole. Source: Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Christian Frederick Cole  

1852 - 1885

Christian Frederick Cole Memorial Plaque

Black Oxford Untold Stories unveiled a brass plaque on Saturday 14th, October 2017 to recognise and honour Christian Frederick Cole.






Christian Frederick Cole was born in 1852 in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. He enrolled at University College as a non-collegiate student in 1873.  Cole read for an Honours degree in Classics. To supplement his income from his uncle, Cole, a talented musician, taught music lessons, Responsions, the first of three examinations once required for an academic degree at the University, as well as preparing students for the divinity exam, which they had to pass to graduate.


During his time at Oxford, the income from his uncle eventually stopped. The Master at the time George Granville Bradley elicited support from others including H. J. Gladstone to ensure he could stay.


Cole achieved a fourth in Greats in 1876: he became the first Black African to achieve a degree from the University of Oxford.  In 1877, he became a full member of the College, and in 1879, a member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. He was called to the Bar in1883 becoming the first Black African to practise Law in English Courts 1884.


The Director of Black Oxford Untold Stories, Pamela Roberts has

worked over the last year with the College’s Domestic Bursar and archivist in developing a plaque to honour Cole.  


Pamela said, “Cole’s presence, from a historical context,

presented an unfamiliar narrative of Black scholars at the

University of Oxford. Today, his achievements still have a contemporary significance and impact; in particular for younger generations in illustrating a sense of the past and what is possible.  Going forward, children and young people from all backgrounds and ethnic groups, need to have knowledge and awareness about the representation at the University of Oxford, and the unlimited range of opportunities available to them. The placing of a plaque will not only be a visible and permanent commemoration of Cole’s time at University College, but it will also represent and acknowledge the College’s early Black presence. 



Pamela Roberts FRSA, Director of Black Oxford and Sir Ivor Crewe, Master, University College unveil the plaque to commemorate Cole

'Many congratulations on steering the whole initiative of the plaque through!

I am really pleased that you did so that Cole now has proper recognition'.   

Dr Robin Darwall-Smith, Archivist, University College, University of Oxford


Know your Oxford

The University of Oxford has included Christian Frederick Cole into their Know your Oxford guided audio tour for new and prospective students. Part 9 – The High Street