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Black Advisory Hub


This essay competition was established by the Alexander Crummell Fund, which was initiated by Professor Henry Louis Gates JR to provide ongoing support for anti-racism work at the University.  This is the third year of the competition which is currently coordinated by the Black Advisory Hub. 


Competition details:

  • Prize:   £1000
  • Essay question:  How do the current conversations about academic freedom and freedom of speech affect Black students at Cambridge? 
  • Due date: Sunday 1 September 2024 (by midnight)
  • Essay word limit: The word limit is 2,500 words, not including references. An alternative presentation or format to the traditional supervisory essay is welcome but should be of an equivalent effort. 
  • Eligibility:  George Bridgetower was one of the first Black students awarded a degree at Cambridge. This Essay Prize was established to enhance understanding of the lived experience of Black students at Cambridge, as well as to create space for Black knowledge-making practices. The prize is therefore open to any current self-identifying Black students, undergraduate or postgraduate, at the University of Cambridge.
  • Submission process: please submit your essay (preferably as a word doc but other formats accepted if non-traditional submission) with the accompanying coversheet by email attachment to
  • Cover sheet: please download and fill in the cover sheet and sign/date it before submission: 


  • Further instructions: The essay must be written in English. The essay may be a piece of work already produced for an entrant’s degree, but students should declare this as part of their submission and are asked to declare that the essay is all their own work.   Creative interpretations of the classic essay are welcome, to the equivalent word length or effort.


Judging criteria: 

  • Originality/ application of the author's personal voice and experience   
  • Strength of argument in response to the essay prompt  
  • Persuasiveness of point of view and positionality  
  • Clarity of communication and presentation  
  • Adeptness of balance between reflective and scholarly perspectives   
  • Rigorousness of referencing, where relevant, with appropriate source material  
  • (Optional) Creativity of interpretation of the essay format 


Previous competition winners

  • Antonia Antrobus-Higgins, an HSPS student (Murray Edwards) was the winner of the 2023 Bridgetower Prize essay competition. The question and a link to the winning essay can be found here. (Raven login required).
  • Maya MacFarlane, a sociology student (Jesus) was the winner of the inaugural 2022 Bridgetower Prize essay competition. The question, an article and a link to the winning essay can be found here. (Raven login required).


Who was Alexander Crummell?

Recent research concludes that Alexander Crummell was the first Black individual to fully matriculate, study with residence and graduate from Cambridge.

From 1849 to 1853, the abolitionist and pan-Africanist Alexander Crummell studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge. His graduation ceremony was an historic occasion for Cambridge, as Crummell is the first recorded Black graduate of the University*. At the ceremony, an individual from the gallery reportedly called out, “Three groans for the Queens’ n*****” … A pale slim undergraduate … shouted in a voice which re-echoed through the building, “Shame, shame! Three groans for you, Sir!” and immediately afterwards, “Three cheers for Crummell!” This was taken up in all directions … and the original offender had to stoop down to hide himself from the storm of groans and hisses that broke out all around him.’ 
  (Source: C. Benson, 1891, Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, The Life of Edward White Benson, vol. 1 , p. 109.)


Who was George Bridgetower? 

However, the records do show that George Bridgetower (or sometimes Bridgtower) received a BMus in 1811 and can indeed be considered a graduate by the definitions of the time. The requirements for a Bachelor of Music were quite unlike those for other Bachelor’s degrees, as follows:

He must enter his name in some College. His exercise is a solemn piece of Music of his own composing (to be examined by the Professor before the performance) to be performed at the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor before the University. It is usually performed at St Mary's Church on the Commencement Sunday.

The Trinity Hall alumnus has a room in the College named after him and you can read more about him on the Trinity Hall website

For more information about this competition, please email