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Let’s tell you about Oxford University’s first black student

The UK’s University of Oxford has paid tribute to its first black student, who was from Sierra Leone. Christian Cole was always likely to turn heads when he arrived in Oxford to read classics, writes the BBC’s Marcus Liddell.

He arrived in Oxford in 1873 as a 21-year-old black man from Waterloo in Sierra Leone and was studying alongside young men from the elite families of Victorian England.

Cole was the grandson of a slave and the adopted son of a Church of England minister in Sierra Leone.

He had studied at Fourah Bay College in the country’s capital, Freetown, before arriving in Oxford.

He was a non-collegiate student at Oxford – to help poorer students who might not be able to afford college fees, it was possible to study without being part of a college at the time.

Cole received an allowance from his uncle to support him, which he supplemented by tutoring and giving music lessons.

These extra commitments did not prevent him from making an impression on Oxford life, according to an archivist at the university.

He spoke at the university’s debating society, the Oxford Union, and seems to have been a well-known figure.

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