Streetlamp Lucozade (orange_fell) wrote in little_details,
Streetlamp Lucozade

[ANON POST] Black University Lecturer in Early 19th-c. Oxford?

Hi! I've been following this community for a while and think it's wonderful, and despite spending a large part of last evening and this morning Googling around for answers, I've found not much definitive, so was hoping you could help me...

I'm writing a story set in early 19th-century England (probably just after the abolition of slavery). The main character is a biracial (black/Spanish, fairly dark-skinned) woman who is extremely learned (speaks about ten languages, has familiarity with classics, medicine, mathematics, science, etc.) but keeps this under wraps most of the time. At points in the story she disguises herself as a man and goes out to talk to other learned people/make money/get taken more seriously/etc.

The story is set near Oxford, and I was hoping that one of the ways she could do this was to give lectures at Oxford University in her male persona. However... because of her ethnicity, I'm unsure how possible or likely this would have been. I know from research and blogs like medievalpoc ( that wealthy and upper-class black people did exist in England historically, so I don't believe it's impossible, but I'm trying to work out how hard it would have been and what sort of reactions she'd have met with.

I've Googled lots of terms like "racism Oxford university 1800s" "black graduates of Oxford university" "black university lecturers" and then more general ones like "black (higher) education 1800s" and "racism 1800s" also tried to find out about famous graduates and entrance requirements for Oxford. When I Googled stuff about education, a lot of stuff I turned up was related to America, where apparently for a long time it was illegal for black people to be educated, but not so much info for England.

I found this interesting page (, which told me that "Oxford's first black student graduated when Christian Cole from Sierra Leone studied Classics in 1873", and I found some interesting info about him, which also stated that it seems like Oxford and Cambridge started accepting black students in the 1860s-1870s, but I couldn't find anything about lecturers.

On the flip side, I read about a woman (in America, but around the same time I think) who allowed a black student into her school, and there was an outcry and people started removing their children from the school.

So basically, how much discrimination would she (as a he) have met with? Might people have refused to attend her lectures/boycotted the university, or would she have got any lectures at all, or would it have been OK because she was exceptionally clever? (Any information about reactions she'd have met with in general at this time/place would also be great, but I'm mainly looking for stuff about the possibility of her lecturing). One thing I have thought of is to have her write for journals etc., so then people wouldn't know her ethnicity, but I'd like her to be able to go out and do stuff as well, if possible.

She also has a disability in that her arm is withered from surviving polio when she was little – not sure if that would have any notable effect (I had imagined that if she got read by people as upper-class and learned it wouldn't really matter, at least not as much as her race and gender).

Thanks so much in advance!
Tags: 1800s (no decades given), uk: education, ~racial prejudice (misc)

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