Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias
Coleman (they/them) is an independent heritage, or inheritance, consultant and an activist intellectual historian of abolitionist ideas.
Schooled in Oxford (Double First in Greats), Paris (Entente Cordial Scholar), and Michigan (PhD in Philosophy), they began their career in this country, in 2013, with a Research Fellowship at Liverpool’s Centre for the Study of International Slavery. In the ensuing decade, in addition to having taught The Philosophy of Anti-Slavery at University College London, Ethics and Theory of Politics at Wadham College, Oxford, and Modern Slavery: Issues and Debates at the University of Bristol, they have co-produced, at Birmingham City University, Britain’s first undergraduate degree in Black Studies. Their most recent roles have included Project Director of Reclaiming Community Heritage, a unique partnership between Empathy Museum, The Ubele Initiative, and 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and launched at the Black Cultural Archives, and Research Fellow for Cast in Stone at the University of Exeter, where they are building a database of contested and contestable colonial statues in Britain and France and researching, in the wake of Black Lives Matter, a biography of Bristol’s statue of Edward Colston.
Born in Birmingham, they are writing a book—The House By The Rivers Of Blood: Birmingham’s Hidden History of British Anti-Slavery—about what we, the Children of Birmingham, that city’s heirs, inherit. We inherit a house Birmingham built, an abolition Birmingham won, and an education Birmingham designed. Accordingly, this book is a trilogy, comprising three distinct, yet related, titles. I. Remember This House!, a new history of the British Commonwealth, has been showcased in keynotes such as About The House, White City Games, and James Baldwin’s “History of Birmingham” at, respectively, the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, the University of Brighton, and Université Paris-Saclay, as well as in a research grant from the Henry Moore Foundation, for a project called “Emperor Joe’s War for Gold: Why Birmingham Began South African Apartheid”. II. Abolish The Police!, a new history of the British Abolitionist Movement, has been showcased in Hegel and Heyrick, a keynote at Berlin’s Humboldt University, and Britain’s #BlackLivesMatter Statue, a podcast for the Henry Moore Institute. III. Die Of Ignorance!, a new history of Britain’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law, “Section 28”, has been showcased as a keynote at Wits University’s conference on Half-Truths, Lies and Bullsh*t: The Politics and Practices of Ignorance, as the inaugural Existing and Emerging Black British Scholarship Seminar and as a Race and Resistance Workshop at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), and as the 2023 Isaiah Berlin Lecture in the History of Ideas, at Wolfson College, Oxford, which can be re-watched here.
Having mobilised global movements asking “Why Isn’t My Professor Black?“, “Why Is My Curriculum White?“, and asserting that “Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford“, their scholar-activism, during 2023, has focussed on commemorating, with a letter to The Times and a public meeting in Parliament, the bicentenary of the beginning of Britain’s so-called “Anti-Slavery Society”. In their 2023 invited lecture for Radboud University’s Race, Religion, Secularism Network (RRS) and in their 2023 Annual Lecture for the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, they will turn our attention to the next abolitionist bicentenary that we should prepare today to commemorate in 2024…
Image credit: Ajamu