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Mapping Black London: Engaging Communities in Multiracial History to Build Equitable Futures

Partially supported by a NULab Community Collaboration Grant.

The Mapping Black London project brings together history, geography and digital technologies to produce interactive maps that unearth the long-range Black presence in London; challenging mainstream accounts that often portray Britain’s multicultural history as a post-war phenomenon. 

The project works with partners in London’s cultural sector, helping develop the London Metropolitan Archives’ exhibition: Unforgotten Lives, Rediscovering Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous Heritage 1560 – 1860 (live April 2023 to March 2024). In addition to contributing content to the exhibition — life story research and maps —, the MBL project has helped organise a series of outreach events to engage visitors with archival materials, attempting to bring the stories from the exhibit to life. The project collaborated on hosting a launch event in April 2023, bringing over one hundred visitors to the exhibition space. Additionally, during Black History Month 2023, the team reconnected with the renowned actor, Paterson Joseph, to co-organise a performance of his play ‘Sancho and Me: For One Night Only,’ which took place alongside the Unforgotten Lives exhibit. These events asked visitors to reflect deeply on the exhibition, encouraging them to think about how this research changes our perceptions of London today and, most importantly, inviting visitors to think about their personal place within it. 

Mapping Black London’s research was also featured in an outdoor version of the exhibition, which travelled across London in the summer of 2023, stopping at Aldgate Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Hampstead Heath. The exhibit attracted over 150,000 visitors in total, bringing the project’s research into the heart of London’s multiracial community. 

The project is currently collaborating with Northeastern University London’s Widening Access and Participation team to run mapping workshops with a range of schools across the city. The project engages with schools to generate impact by empowering students to feel connected to their local histories and encouraging a large and diverse student body to consider higher education, laying firmer foundations for more equitable futures.

Co-Principal Investigators:

Dr. Oliver Ayers

Dr. Nicole N. Aljoe

Graduate Students:

Tieana Graphenreed

Yana Mommadova

Juniper Johnson

Tiffany Cruz

Undergraduate Students: 

Odile Jordan

Ellen Valente

Amouraé Bhola-Chin

Libby Collard

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