Posted October 14th 2020

Black History Month profile: Lady Ademola (English, 1932)

Kofoworola Ademola was the first black African woman to achieve a degree at Oxford.

Kofoworola arrived at Oxford University in 1932 to study English at St Hugh’s College, and determined to pursue a teaching career. Kofoworola achieved her degree at St Hugh’s in 1935.

Lady Ademola, as she would become, lived a fascinating life, as a lifelong advocate for women’s education and social reform. Kofoworola became an important figure in women’s organisations such as the Red Cross, which led to her becoming a Member of the Order of the British Empire. She navigated a male-dominated world to maintain and promote her identity, and fundamentally her passion for empowering and enriching the lives of girls and young women through education.

Kofoworola is pictured in traditional African dress, during the visit to St Hugh’s College of Oba Alaiyeluwa Ademola in 1937.

A celebration of her life was hosted at St Hugh’s earlier in 2020, and was one of the last major events hosted at College before the pandemic. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, unveiled a photograph of Lady Ademola which is now situated prominently in our Main Building.

The placing of the photograph at the College was initiated by Pamela Roberts, FRSA, FRHistS, Founder and Director of Black Oxford Untold Stories, which celebrates the contributions and legacies of Oxford University’s black scholars from the turn of the 20th century to the present day.

At the event, we were delighted to launch our new fund in honour of Lady Ademola to support Black graduate students and visiting scholars from Africa. If you would like to support the College’s effort to encourage greater participation and representation from Africa, please contact the Development Office on or +44 (0)1865 274975.

Read more in this series:

Black History Month profile: Melvin Mezue (Neuroscience, 2010)

Black History Month profile: Patrice Wellesley-Cole (Law, 1971)