75 years  

The Colonial Dept 1927-1953

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Richard Graves : student in 1949/50

Richard, from Ghana, though long resident in the UK, described in particular the experiences of black students in the UK. He also recalls meeting a highlight of his stay: meeting T S Elliot:

"I was at the Institute from 1949 to 1950 and one of the things I remember mostly is the Negro Association that we formed, comprising students from Nigeria, Ghana, West Indies and so many other countries. At our meetings students recalled their experiences in various parts of the country.  We had one student who was the daughter of the Oni of Ife, and the Oni was coming to Britain round about that time. It was 1949. The BBC invited his daughter, who was with us at the Institute and also a member of the Negro Association, to brief the BBC announcer on the correct way to introduce her father:  The Oni of Ife. She went there and gave lessons to the announcer. However, on the day the announcer said the Oni of Ib, instead of the Oni of Ife, so all that coaching was wasted. This was not the only incident where black students encountered differences of understanding during their time in the UK. There was another student who told us that he was at a restaurant sitting at a table and when he had finished eating his food he picked up the bone and was chewing it, like at home….. Now there was an English lady sitting nearby and looking at him. She couldn’t believe her eyes. This lady was eating her ice-cream so she turned to him and said, ‘but pardon me what do dogs eat in your country?’  And this student said, ‘Ice-cream’!

On one occasion when we were coming, we passed by Russell Square and whom did we meet but T S Eliot, because he had his office....just in Russell Square. I was walking with a friend who liked Eliot’s poetry very much. Luckily, Eliot was just entering his office and this friend of mine went and greeted him and told him that he liked his poetry very much.  So that was something which I always remember that I met T S Eliot when I was here at the Institute."

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Compiled and edited by Clare Bentall and Angela Little. First issued Spring 2005.