Robert Sutherland’s lasting legacy

Queen's saviour, Canada's first black university graduate 

A plaque inside Robert Sutherland Hall.

Robert Sutherland’s enrolment at Queen’s was and continues to be a significant part of the school’s history. As someone who’s remembered not only for surpassing Canadian milestones, but saving Queen’s during a crucial financial crisis, Sutherland is among the university’s most notable alumni. 

Born in Jamaica, Sutherland received a degree in Classics and Mathematics from Queen’s in 1852. At a time when slavery was still extremely prominent in the United States, he became the first person of colour to graduate a Canadian university. To provide some perspective, Sutherland came to the country and began his undergraduate studies the same year that Harriet Tubman, famous for helping slaves escape through the Underground Railroad, fled slavery.


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