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Race Equality at Cambridge

 

GEORGE BRIDGETOWER essay competition hosted by the Alexander Crummell Fund.

Congratulations to the 2022 George Bridgetower essay winner Maya McFarlane

Read the winning essay here 

Read here for further information about the George Bridgetower essay and its winner.

Runners up: Tyra Amofah-Akardum, Jordan Andrew, Grace Desouza  

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?

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‘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 Bridgtower) 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

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