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Mapping Black London: Northeastern research project brings stories of Black Londoners from centuries past to life

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Unbeknownst to many of its students, Northeastern University’s London campus is located near what was once a hub of city life for Black Londoners. Northeastern’s Devon House campus is flanked by London’s only marina, St. Katharine Docks. Before the 19th century, however, these docks were nowhere to be found; instead, there stood a 12th-century parish church and hospital. Baptisms, births, weddings, funerals, and other important milestones all established the space as an important local hub. Then, in the 1820s, the church was demolished to make way for the docks and many of these peoples’ stories were lost to history. Until now.

Thanks to a team of historians at Northeastern University London, the stories of everyday Londoners of color like those at St. Katharine parish are being unearthed and re-incorporated into the historical record. In turn, they are creating a more holistic view of the city’s history, one that includes its vibrant Black life. Using archival data, students and faculty working on the Mapping Black London project have unearthed over 3,000 records of people of color who lived in London from 1560 to 1840. The records — including baptisms, marriages, deaths and images — show the everyday lives of Black Londoners in all their diversity, from all walks of life.

This Article from Northeastern Global News features the work of WGSS committee member and professor of English and Africana Studies, Nicole Aljoe and her colleagues on the project. It discusses what these records reveal about life for people of color in London at the time, as well as how the team of researchers was able to gather so much data, and how the project challenged their own preconceptions.

Read the full article here!

Illustration by Michelle Musili

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