They were bright.
They were audacious.
They were, without a doubt, exceptional.
Making History: Christian Cole, Alain Locke and Oscar Wilde at Oxford tells the story of three nineteenth and twentieth century trailblazers who changed Oxford University and the world beyond it. Christian Cole was one of Oxford University’s first Black African undergraduates, Alain Locke was the first African-American Rhodes scholar and dean of the Harlem Renaissance, and Oscar Wilde was the greatest Irish wit and dandy of all time. By drawing these three exceptional men together, this exhibition showcases Black and Queer undergraduates’ shared histories through rare archives that bear witness to their remarkable lives and times. This exhibition and website are based on Michèle Mendelssohn’s biography, Making Oscar Wilde. It was a Sunday Times, Times Literary Supplement and The Advocate Book of the Year, a semi-finalist for the PEN America Biography Prize, and a finalist for the Polari Prize.
This trio comes to you now to bear witness. Like survivors, they challenge you to hear their testimony and to imagine your way into their experience. Together, they invite you to look at Oxford through their eyes. They ask you to see how they were both insiders and outsiders. They ask you to weigh the opportunities they had against the struggles they faced. Cole, Locke and Wilde remind us that tolerance is not enough. Inclusion is what we all long for and deserve. In the video below, watch two of the curators introduce the exhibition:
A word of warning: please be aware that this exhibition and website include derogatory language, racist, homophobic and sexist imagery. This exhibition does not excuse these disgraceful forms of thinking and presentation. Rather, it places them in historical perspective and asks you to reflect on these problematic histories. We hope you will think about how discrimination existed in the past and continues to exist today. In fact, we believe that knowing how these ideas once operated may be the first step towards arguing against them and building a more inclusive present and future.
The images and text on this website are copyrighted. To cite this website, use the following reference:
Mendelssohn, Michèle. Making History: Christian Cole, Alain Locke and Oscar Wilde at Oxford https://makinghistory.magd.ox.ac.uk/ Accessed on [date].