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Equality & Diversity


GEORGE BRIDGETOWER essay competition hosted in partnership with the Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry and the Alexander Crummell Fund.

Essay Title

Cambridge prides itself on being a “globally diverse institution” at the forefront of social and political progress. Since Crummell’s graduation, to what extent has the University of Cambridge changed as a space for Black students, and as an institution responsible for transformation?

Essay prize of £1,000, essays must be between 2-3,000 words and submitted by noon on Monday 17 January 2022 via email to

The winner of the prize for the 2021/22 year will be announced on Friday 19th March 2022

‘From 1849 to 1853, the abolitionist and pan-Africanist Alexander Crummell studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge. His graduation ceremony was an historic occasion for Cambridge, as Crummell is the first recorded Black graduate of the University*. At the ceremony, an individual from the gallery reportedly called out, “Three groans for the Queens’ n*****” … A pale slim undergraduate … shouted in a voice which re-echoed through the building, “Shame, shame! Three groans for you, Sir!” and immediately afterwards, “Three cheers for Crummell!” This was taken up in all directions … and the original offender had to stoop down to hide himself from the storm of groans and hisses that broke out all around him.’

C. Benson, Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, The Life of Edward White Benson, vol. 1 (1899), p. 109.

*Recent research concludes that Alexander Crummell was the first Black individual to fully matriculate, study with residence and graduate from Cambridge. However, the records do show that George Bridgetower (or sometimes Bridgetower) received a BMus in 1811 and can indeed be considered a graduate by the definitions of the time. The requirements for a Bachelor of Music were quite unlike those for other Bachelor’s degrees, as follows:

He must enter his name in some College. His exercise is a solemn piece of Music of his own composing (to be examined by the Professor before the performance) to be performed at the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor before the University. It is usually performed at St Mary's Church on the Commencement Sunday. 

The Trinity Hall alumnus has a room in the College named after him and you can read more about him on the Trinity Hall website