The Black Cantabs Speaker Series

March 2017 marks the first talk in our exciting new initiative, the Black Cantabs Speaker Series. This Series aims to go beyond a recognition of the early Black Cantabs, recovering their histories, and celebrating their achievements and contributions. The Series offers critical consideration of their works and writings, initiating a discussion on how they have influenced our wider society. In learning more about these early black scholars, we can gain better insights and an understanding of how they were shaped by their time in Cambridge, and what they went on to do all over the world.

The Series invites speakers to discuss selected Black Cantabs, as well as the Black Cantabs themselves to share their works with current students, and the paths they have taken since leaving the university.

The first in the Series was a talk on Alexander Crummell (Queens' College, 1853) delivered on 17 March 2017, at Queens' College, Cambridge.

1. The Intellectual contributions and moral philosophy of Alexander Crummell by Dr. Michael Eze*

The talk on Crummell was a detailed and critical analysis of his writings in the context of his time. Alexander Crummell was the first recorded black student to study at Cambridge. He was African American and of free black ancestry who went on to become a priest, philosopher, poet and statesman. An important activist and educator in Liberia, Crummell was one of the first professors at Liberia College, now the University of Liberia and played a leading role in the country's intellectual and religious life.

In the session, Dr Eze discussed how Crummell was influenced by his tutors and contemporaries alike, providing a full picture of his life and experiences. Using texts from Crummell's writings, Dr. Eze offered an extensive critique of Crummell's ideas and thoughts on language, race, moral intuitions, and reasoning. Noting historical transitions, Dr Eze also made a study of the man himself, highlighting the tensions which existed within Crummell.

Over 20 participants actively engaged in a lively back and forth discussion on Crummell's writings and thoughts, and the session was concluded with a better understanding of the complexity of Alexander Crummell and his legacy.


*Dr. Michael Eze currently teaches African political theory at the University of Amsterdam and a graduate student at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. Until recently, he was a visiting scholar at the Center for African Studies and a research associate at the Martin Luther King Jr., Institute, both at Stanford University.   He was a Stiftung Mercator Foundation Research Fellow at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut (Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities) in Essen, Germany from 2006-2009.

He received his PhD (Summa Cum Laude) in History and Cultural Reflection from Universität Witten-Herdecke, Germany (2008),  MA in philosophy from the University of Pretoria, South Africa (2006) and BA Honours in philosophy and Classics from the Jesuit School of Philosophy, in Harare, Zimbabwe (2003). He has taught at the universities of Frankfurt, Augsburg, and Colorado Christian University. He has published in many scientific journals, including two books, The Politics of History in Contemporary Africa (2010) and Intellectual History in Contemporary South Africa (2010) both from Palgrave-Macmillan.

Other scholarly peer reviewed articles include, “Pan Africanism and the Politics of History ( 2013), “Pan Africanism: A brief Intellectual history” (forthcoming, 2013) “Humanism as History in Contemporary Africa” (2011), “The Politics of Being a Human Being In Soweto: Identity as a Social Capital” (2011),  “I am Because You Are”, (2011)“Pan-Africanism and the Politics of History” (2013), “Pan-Africanism: A Brief Intellectual History” (2013), “I am Because You Are: Cosmopolitanism in the age of Xenophobia” (2017), among others.


2. Brigitte Sesu Tilley-Gyado, 27 April, Heong Gallery, Downing College (7-8.30pm).

Jointly hosted by the Black Cantabs, African Society of Cambridge University and the Centre of African Studies, this will be the second in the Black Cantabs Speaker Series featuring Ms. Brigitte Sesu Tilley Gyado.

In this session, Brigitte shared her experiences in navigating the professional world while dealing with issues of gender and race. This talk traced the fascinating and fluid career of a young high achieving Black Cantab through her works and interactions on the continent, and in the diaspora. Participants engaged to discuss the challenges and barriers to rising to top leadership positions, working in the diaspora, and how students can better prepare themselves to become change agents all around the world.


*Brigitte Sesu Tilley-Gyado

An alumna of Robinson College (2006), Brigitte began her career in Asset Management in London, but moved into creating strategies for market entry and growth in public and private sector for Africa. She has since created presidential campaign strategies on the African continent, including the recent presidential elections in Nigeria, Zambia, Congo. In addition, she has developed country brands and strategies for attracting Foreign Direct Investment and national inward investment campaigns for a number of countries in Africa. She has also played a role in launching and growing large foreign multinational institutions in Africa, enabling African companies to grow and become multinational. Her clients included Globacom, UBS, Harrods, among others.

She is the winner of the Nigerian National Art Competition for her artwork (collected by Barclays Bank UK, FCMB Bank, The Danjuma Collection among others), and is also a former UK youth athletics national Gold medallist in 100m and 200m sprints. We are honoured to have her as the second speaker to our series.

The event was hosted at the Heong Gallery which is currently running an exhibition highlighting emerging African artists from over a dozen countries on the continent (http://www.dow.cam.ac.uk/cultural-life/heong-gallery/when-heavens-meet-earth). The works are presented though multiple media including photography, painting, sculpture and film. With pieces that explore everyday life, politics, human rights, LGBT +, representation and identity, this exhibition has been described as impactful, provocative and playful.

Nafisa Waziri

Nafisa is a second year PhD student at the Centre of Development Studies, a member of Hughes Hall, and current president of the Black Cantabs Research Society.

Cambridge, United Kingdom

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