Pembroke College Houses First Bermuda History Collection


Pembroke College is set to house Oxford’s first collection of books focusing on the history of race and resistance in Bermuda. The Pembroke Bermuda Collection was spearheaded by Bermudan Pembroke DPhil candidate, Alexa Virdi, after she attended a lecture held by the Oxford University Student Union Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality entitled “Why is my Curriculum so White?”.  

Bermuda is a small UK Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic with a history of slavery and racial segregation. The collection of books written by Bermudan authors chart the island’s history from its founding in 1609 through to the race riots of the 1970s.  The collection includes the autobiography of Mary Prince, a Bermudian slave whose story helped to galvanise the abolition movement throughout the British Empire.

Professor Stephen Tuck, Professor of Modern History and Fellow at Pembroke College commented: 'We are delighted to house this collection of books by Bermudan authors. Together, the books tell a challenging and inspiring history, a history that has much to teach students in Britain. To mark Black History Month, the collection is being displayed at the entrance to the library so that students from all subjects will see them -- and rightly so.'

Bermudan Oxford alumnus and generous benefactor of this project, John Collis, described how 'the inclusion of the books in the Oxford library system will help ensure that the history of race and resistance in Bermuda is part of the broader narrative of the history of the world.'  

In August, an event was held in Bermuda to celebrate the books joining the library of Pembroke College. An audience of 170 strong gathered to listen to a panel of six Bermudian authors read excerpts from the books to be housed in Pembroke College.

Panel of authors at the Bermuda event (left to right): Dr. Eva Hodgson, Jonathan Smith, Evelyn James Barnett (chair) Dale Butler, Alexa Virdi (Pembroke DPhil candidate), Walton Brown Jr, Wendy Davis Johnson (representing her father David Critchley), Ottiwell Simmons and Treasure Tannock (read from The History of Mary Prince).


The Pembroke Bermuda Collection

Gladys Morrell and the Women's Suffrage Movement in Bermuda – Colin Benbow Mazumbo: Dr E F Gordon - Dale Butler L Frederick Wade - Dale Butler Bermuda and the Struggle for Reform:  Race, Politics and Ideology - Walton Brown Jnr The Painted Lily - Amy Baker Choir No. 1 & Choir No.2 - Hilton Hill Second Class Citizens; First Class Men - Dr Eva Hodgson Chained on the Rock, Slavery In Bermuda - Cyril Outerbridge Packwood Edward Fraser: From Slave to Missionary - C F E Hallett The History of the Bermuda Industrial Union - Ira Philip Freedom fighters: from Monk to Mazumbo - Ira Philip The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave Narrative - Mary Prince Heritage - Dr Kenneth Robinson The Berkley Educational Society's Origins and Early History - Dr Kenneth Robinson Our Lady of Labour - Ottiwell Simmons Island Flames: Murder, Execution and Racial Enmity: The Real Story of Bermuda’s 1977 Riots – Jonathan Smith Black Power In Bermuda - Quito Swan The Story of Bermuda and Her People - W S Zuill  Echoes of Bermuda's past:  from slavery to emancipation and beyond – James Smith

Special thanks to Professors Stephen Tuck and Justine McConnell, Pembroke College, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, The Oxford Race and Resistance Network, The Bermuda Oxford and Cambridge Society, The Bermuda Library, The Brian Burland Centre, Jackie Aubrey, Martin Buckley, John Collis, Laura Cracknell, Central Filing Limited, Alia Hamza, Ellen Hollis, Method Media and Dr. Arhat Virdi.

From some of the authors

The daughter of the late Cyril Packwood, Cheryl Packwood, described how her librarian father would be very pleased that Bermuda history books are now available in one of the most famous libraries in the world.

Quito Swan spoke of how 'Narratives of Black resistance in Bermuda have often been rendered invisible in scholarship detailing Bermuda history. This process has included the silencing of Black Bermudian writers, literature and voices, a troubling phenomenon that unfortunately persists today. The Oxford project on race and resistance in Bermuda is a wonderful opportunity to address such concerns while highlighting the growing canon of Bermudian scholarship.'

The family of the late Dr. Kenneth E. Robinson recall how his passion for writing was driven by the desire to ensure people of colour were written
into the history of Bermuda since previously the historical accounts of Bermuda's people of colour and their contributions had either been totally ignored or their existence relegated to servile accounts. 

Ira Phillips described how 'Freedom Fighters in Bermuda have been relentless in combating the enforcers of slavery and exploitation leading up to and after the 1834 Emancipation Act. Documentation of their efforts for historical reference could be no more readily and authoritatively available than within the library of the University of Oxford'.