Black History Month: Honouring Agents of Inclusion: Professor Dapo Akande


On Monday the 23rd of September, the halls of St Peter’s College, Oxford University were graced with the first portrait of a black professor. Its subject was the esteemed Professor Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law at the University. The unveiling, which was performed by Prof Akande and the Master of St Peter's, Mark Damazer CBE, was preceded by a short speech by Catherine Goodman, the artist responsible for the work.

Professor Akande has long been an upstanding member of academia in the United Kingdom. He is a Fellow at Exeter College and Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) and the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations. He has held visiting professorships at Yale Law School (where he was also Robinna Foundation International Fellow), the University of Miami School of Law and the Católica Global Law School, Lisbon. Before taking up his position in Oxford in 2004, he was Lecturer in Law at the University of Nottingham School of Law (1998-2000) and at the University of Durham (2000-2004). From 1994 to 1998, he taught international law at the London School of Economics and at Christ's College and Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. Professor Akande was Yamani Fellow and Tutor in Public International Law between 2004 and 2017. He is one of the authors of Oppenheim's International Law: The United Nations (2017, OUP), which was awarded the 2019 Certificate of Merit by the American Society of International Law.

The unveiling of his portrait comes as another boost to the diversity represented in the hall. Portraits of two highly regarded women in the University’s history, Rt Revd Libby Lane and Professor Christine Greenhalgh, were the last to be unveiled in 2016.

Prof Akande attests to the determination and perseverance of BAME individuals who continue to penetrate institutions that were once gatekeepers of white influence in the United Kingdom. It shows that regardless of your field, industry or profession, we can excel and leave our mark. He acts as an example to all black persons to continue to strive for a place in white-dominated spaces. For Oxford University, this unveiling illustrates to all potential young black students that their minds are welcome and needed at the institution which serves to encourage generations to come to strive for such greatness.

This Black History Month, we honour heroes such as Professor Akande who is making these strides modestly and without much fanfare. As Simon Woolley stated in his essay on Kwaku, it is time to celebrate “Individuals who go about their business informing, educating, campaigning, empowering all of us, and barely ever getting any credit.” To the body of black individuals of the United Kingdom, join Operation Black Vote in rallying behind and congratulating this new black legend. 


Thais Thomas