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Black History Month: Why the flag of the Bahamas is flying above St Catharine’s College, Cambridge

The national flag of the Bahamas is flying over St Catharine’s College to signify the start of Black History Month.

It commemorates the University of Cambridge college’s connection to the Bahamas, through its earliest known black student, Alfred F Adderley CBE.

The flag of the Bahamas flies above St Catharine's College on October 1, 2020, to mark the start of Black History Month. Picture: St Catharine's College (42509075)
The flag of the Bahamas flies above St Catharine's College on October 1, 2020, to mark the start of Black History Month. Picture: St Catharine's College (42509075)

This was confirmed during a recent research project, which showed Mr Adderley arrived from the Bahamas to study law in 1912.

Following graduation and legal training, he returned to the Bahamas to practise law, distinguishing himself in court and becoming a leader in national politics, religion and sports.

Professor Sir Mark Welland, master of St Catharine’s College , said: “This Black History Month, St Catharine’s College is starting the new academic year by embracing over a century of black students, staff and fellows contributing to our academic community. We are rightly proud of our black history, first recorded in 1912 with Alfred F Adderley, who contributed so much to life at St Catharine’s and in the Bahamas.

“I’m delighted that the raising of the Bahamian flag today in his memory launches a programme of activities that will enable us all to reflect and build on these important historical experiences throughout October and beyond.”

The college established the Adderley Prize following a bequest from Alfred and his son, Paul Adderley, who also studied at the college and went on to become acting governor-general of the Bahamas.

The prize is given annually to recognise St Catharine’s law students for outstanding performance in their exams.

L’myah Sherae, who graduated with a master’s degree from St Catharine’s and whose research investigated Alfred F Adderley’s life, said: “Delving into the college’s archives was a very powerful experience for me.

“I was overwhelmed and completely inspired by the achievements of Alfred F Adderley and the other black students at St Catharine’s who followed him.

“Knowing that I also followed in their prominent footsteps, as a black student at St Catharine’s, was incredibly motivating. I am thrilled that my research inspired the college to fly the Bahamian flag in honour of this rich history.”

The national flag of the Bahamas is flying from the college’s flag pole on October 1 and 31, to mark the start and end of Black History Month. Activities planned include:

  • Celebrations of Black composers, spoken word and art;
  • An exhibition of photographs and inspirational quotes from black members of the college community, past and present;
  • Dedicated services in the college’s chapel; and
  • An event focused on supporting black and minority ethnic students’ mental health in higher education.

One of the organisers, Danielle Wright, a black undergraduate student at St Catharine’s, said: “Given Alfred F Adderley’s breadth of interests and legacy of support for St Catharine’s, I like to think he would welcome the wide-ranging programme that we’re hosting for Black History Month this year.

“Josie Archer and I have been working very hard to help St Catharine's embrace our black history, and we are looking forward to students, staff and fellows joining together – largely online in the current circumstances – for these activities and writing the next chapter in our Black history.”

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