Black History Month: St Hilda’s celebrates diversity and inclusion

28th October 2022
Kathryn Belle

To mark Black History Month (October 2022), we reflect on – and celebrate – a year of diversity and inclusion at the College and in the lives of our alumnae.

Principal Professor Dame Sarah Springman said: “St Hilda’s College has equality and excellence as core principles and we are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through our activities all year round. In Black History Month, we feel it is important to reflect on the achievements of Black alumnae, students and staff and share some highlights from the past 12 months, while recognising there is still more that we can all do to create a fully inclusive society for current and future generations.”

October 2021: Alumna Nadifa Mohamed is shortlisted for the Booker Prize for her gripping novel The Fortune Men. The novel was later awarded the Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, then the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Award, before going on to win the overall award and the crowning title of Wales Book of the Year 2022. Nadifa also won the Alhambra Award For Excellence In The Arts at the Muslim News Awards in 2022. Nadifa graduated in 2000 in Modern History and Politics.

Also, that month, our alumna and Honorary Fellow Zeinab Badawi is elected President of SOAS, University of London. Zeinab read PPE at St Hilda’s, matriculating in 1978. Zeinab is an award-winning broadcaster and journalist,and has received many media awards as well as honorary doctorates for her work.

February 2022: We co-host an Offer Holder Day with the Oxford African and Caribbean Society for their incoming students.

April: We run a Medicine Taster event for Target Oxbridge, a free programme which has already helped more than 200 Black African and Caribbean students (as well as students of mixed race with black African and Caribbean heritage) to get into the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. We’re supported in the event by our colleagues in Biomedicine, Medicine and the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Science.

In the same month, we host the Dr Joyce Mitchell Cook Memorial Lecture remembering our pioneering alumna who went on to become the first Black American woman to earn a doctorate in Philosophy in the US. Dr Cook, who graduated in Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology from St Hilda’s in 1955 guided and inspired generations of women. The event raises funds for the Joyce Mitchell Cook Memorial Fund. St Hilda’s partners with the University’s Black Academic Futures programme in the fund to create a new, fully funded graduate award in Philosophy. The Joyce Mitchell Cook Black Academic Futures Graduate Studentship, which is open to applicants for entry in October 2023.

Our inaugural lecturer in 2021 was Professor Anita L. Allen, JD., PhD, the Henry R Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, who talked about The ideas and ideals of Joyce Mitchell Cook.

Dr Kathryn Sophia Belle PhD, (photograph) Director of the Africana Research Center and Associate Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies at Penn State University and Founding Director of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers spoke this year in person about True Philosophers: Phillis Wheatley, Joyce Mitchell Cook, and Claudia Jones.

May: St Hilda’s alumna Dr Lisa DeNell Cook is sworn in as the first Black woman to become a US Federal Reserve Governor. Dr Cook graduated in Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology from St Hilda’s in 1976.

June: Dr Malachi McIntosh, who specialises in research in Caribbean and Black British writing, joins St Hilda’s and the Faculty of English as an Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow in World Literatures in English. Focusing on writing produced between the 1950s and 1980s, Dr McIntosh is also fascinated by inter-war and post-Second World War writing from the French Caribbean and broader diaspora.

July: St Hilda's alumna, Representative Terri Sewell came together with Professors Louise Richardson, Brenda Stevenson and Secretary Hillary Clinton for a conversation in New York, hosted by the University of Oxford's North American Office, on the role of Women's History in forming public policy. Terri Sewell read Politics (1986).

September: Publisher Faber acquires Dr Malachi McIntosh’s group biography, A Revolutionary Consciousness, due to be published in 2027.

October: Pragna Patel, former Director of Southall Black Sisters, delivered the Lady English Lecture, talking about 40 years of Feminist Activism: The highs, the lows and what we have learnt. It was a fascinating story of commitment to improving the lives of Black and Asian women, ending with the uplifting message: ‘even in the darkest moments, there is hope’.

Also in this month, Dr Malachi McIntosh is shortlisted for the prestigious Eccles Centre and the Hay Festival Writer’s Award 2023 for his book, A Revolutionary Consciousness, tracing the origins and emergence of the Caribbean Arts Movement of the 60s, 70s and 80s, detailing its enduring and important legacies. 

Looking ahead to the end of 2022 and into 2023, the College will continue to host events, in particular our annual Dr Joyce Mitchell Cook Memorial Lecture, and celebrate manifold successes from our Black alumnae, students and staff in the year ahead. St Hilda's is currently accepting applications for the Joyce Mitchell Cook Black Academic Futures Graduate Studentship. 

About Black History Month

Entering its 35th year of celebration, Black History Month 2022 runs throughout the month of October in the UK and in countries around the world.

Black History Month is a time for reflection and for making positive changes for the future.

The event encourages people to celebrate the outstanding contributions that Black people have made and continue to make.