The Nigerian author and publisher Dillibe Onyeama, popularly regarded as the first Black boy to attend the elite Eton College, has passed on. He was aged 71.
The news of his passing was shared by his son Dillibe Junior on his Facebook page on November 11. He described his father as a life influence.
Dilibe Onyeama was born in 1969 to Charles Onyeama, a Justice at the Nigerian Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice. Onyeama attended preparatory school at Grove Park in Sussex, before becoming a student at Eton in 1965. As the very first Black student in the elite boys’ boarding school, he was a target for racial abuse and discrimination.
Onyeama detailed most of his experience at the school in his memoir Nigger at Eton, published in 1972 by Leslie Frewin Limited and republished by Penguin in 2022 as A Black Boy at Eton. The book’s publication drew controversy, and the ire of the headmaster Michael McCrum who banned Onyeama from alumni visits until 2020 when the ban was lifted and an apology offered by the present headmaster Simon Henderson. His other books include Juju (1977), Secret Society (1978), and The Return: Homecoming of a Negro from Eton (1978), among others.
Onyeama’s demise has drawn condolences from friends and colleagues, as well as notable figures such as Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
Others include the Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo who took to Instagram to share her condolences.
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Evaristo remembered Onyeama’s legacy, “So sadly, Dillibe has gone, but this book, written so well when he was, astonishingly, only twenty-one years old, will live on.”
May Onyeama’s soul rest in peace.