The Nigger At Eton

Adebayo Adeniran
3 min readDec 6, 2021

How one book forced Britain’s most famous fee paying School to come to terms with its extraordinary racism and bigotry.

The author screen shot from Glendora Bookshop

Eton College is Britain’s preeminent fee paying school. Since its founding by Henry VI in 1440, It has produced twenty Prime Ministers including David Cameron and the incumbent, Boris Johnson. Princes William and Harry, Ian Fleming (author of James Bond) and George Orwell also attended this institution which has been described as “ the nurse of England’s statesmen”.

To receive an education at Eton these days, you would have to set aside £48,051 annually — a sum beyond the reach of the vast majority of Britons alive today.

Wealthy Nigerians, who have always mistaken proximity to whiteness as progress, have always seen schools like Eton as something of a must have; a rare commodity to be acquired and shown off to their less well off contemporaries.

And it is with this mindset that Charles D. Onyeama, an eminent Nigerian jurist, who was educated at Oxford, chose to send his eldest son, Dilibe, to Britain’s finest in the 1960s.

Upon graduating from Eton in 1969, Dilibe Onyeama sought to put his experiences into print.

The result of which was ‘Nigger at Eton’.

Dilibe Onyeama did not leave any stone unturned in depicting the sort of casual racism that he encountered at the school and I have captured a few quotes for your perusal:

Why are you black? How many maggots are there in your hair?Does your mother wear a bone in her nose?

When he performed beyond expectations in his O’levels, the entire school was confounded and sought to know how the author did it:

how did you do it?’ You cheated, didn’t you?

There are several other quotes in this book, which show upper class Englishmen to be just as violently bigoted and racist as their working class counterparts. A modern reader cannot begin to appreciate how psychologically damaging this must have been for an adolescent, who was thousands of miles away from his family in a strange country.

Eton College was profoundly miffed by the book when it was released back in 1972, that it made the decision of banning the author from ever visiting the school.

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Adebayo Adeniran

A lifelong bibliophile, who seeks to unleash his energy on as many subjects as possible