These Cambridge colleges have put up flags for Black History Month

Churchill and Catz are honouring Black History Month by flying these flags above College

At the beginning of October, St Catharine’s College and Churchill College both announced that they would be flying flags in celebration of Black History Month. Churchill has flown the Pan-African flag, and Catz has chosen to put up the flag of the Bahamas, in memory of their first-known Black student.


A recent study at Catz found that the college’s earliest known Black student, Alfred F. Adderley CBE, studied law at Cambridge in 1912 after arriving from the Bahamas. He went on to become a leader in national politics, religion, and sport, after graduating and moving back to his native country.

Catz has an annual prize named after Adderley, given to law students with outstanding performance in exams. It was established at the request of Adderley’s son, The Hon Paul Adderley, who also studied at the College.

(Image credit: St Catherine’s College, Cambridge)

In a press release from the day of the flag-raising ceremony (1st October), The Master of St Catharine’s, Professor Sir Mark Wellend, 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 national flag of the Bahamas will fly over St Catharine’s until 31st October, and across the month the college will run activities in commemoration of Black History, including exhibitions, dedicated chapel services and, a mental health workshop supporting BME students.


The Pan-African flag was designed in 1920 by Marcus Garvey, with three colours representing Black liberation and unity. Green represents the wealth of the nation of Africa, Black represents the nationhood of the Black diaspora around the world, and red represents the blood of African people which was shed for liberation. You can read more about the history of the flag, here.

(Image credit: Orasenkhoe Ogbeide)

When asked about the reception to the flag being put up, Churchill’s BME Officer, Nkem Onah, said: “I was personally impressed by college going ahead with flying the pan-African flag. I can see why people have said it’s a relatively easy gesture but I still think in Cambridge especially, with all the fuss that’s made about things like flags, it’s a bold statement regarding what Churchill College stands for. I think now it’s just about making sure that statement is followed by tangible action in anti-racism, representation, and support for Black students.”

Orasenkhoe Ogbeide is a third-year PhD student who pushed the College to fly this flag for Black History Month. He told The Cambridge Tab about his reaction to seeing it put up, and echoed some of Nkem’s sentiments about the significance of the gesture:

“Although it is an easy thing to do, it cannot be understated how historic it is for a Cambridge College to fly the Pan-African Flag for the first time ever. It brings me great joy knowing that a flag designed by Marcus Garvey to unify and celebrate African people, is flying above Churchill College. This important flag above Churchill is a prominent reminder of their pledge to fight racism, along with a reaffirmation of the contributions of African people and their right to belong at the college. My hope is that this along with the myriad of activities planned for Black History Month also leads to a wider discourse on racism and eventually significant change in the systems at play.”

“’Flying a flag is an easy gesture’, and this assertion is completely right. But then this begs the question, why hasn’t it been done before? And now that the flag is up, what does this mean? The significance of a gesture does not reside in the gesture itself but rather in the reactions and emotions it induces.  So, while this may be a step forward, the marathon continues.”

Cover image credit: Orasenkhoe Ogbeide