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Cambridge University Library


This exhibition tells the stories of black students in Cambridge, from the forgotten pioneers of centuries past to the celebrated successes of today. In it, a collection of photographic portraits will celebrate centuries of black students at Cambridge (from 1700 to the present day) and inspire future generations.

Featuring trailblazers from the first black British army officer to the first black female composer to have a composition played at the Proms, the exhibition features famous faces such as Zadie Smith, Thandie Newton and Naomie Harris alongside rare archive images. New portraits are being taken by the city of Cambridge’s chief chronicler, Sir Cam, including of classical composer Errollyn Wallen, jazz singer Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan and MP Diane Abbott. These portraits will hang on the University Library’s 'Royal Corridor'.

This collection represents a reinvention of the traditional Cambridge portrait students may see on a daily basis and the exhibition opening marks the first day of the UK’s Black History Month (1 October). 

Black Cantabs: History Makers runs from 1 October to 22 December at the University Library, before touring the University and Colleges. It builds on the painstaking research project undertaken by the Black Cantabs Society, the members of which are students, staff and alumni of the University. See the results of the project on the Society's website:

Important information about your visit:

  • The exhibition is free to visit, no need to book. Please see our website for opening times.
  • Tickets are timed; please sign in and obtain your pass from our team in the Entrance Hall. 
  • Your pass admits you to the exhibition and Tea-Room only; to visit the wider Library please see our website for details of future tours.
  • Bags are not permitted in the Library however visitors are welcome to use our free locker room located off the Entrance Hall.
  • All ages are welcome however under 17s must be accompanied by an adult/parent/guardian.
  • Max. 20 visitors admitted at one time. For larger groups, please contact

Generously supported by:

Cambridge Assessment 




Cambridge University Press