About Our Project
The Mapping Black London digital project recentres and recovers the presence of people of colour across the city’s long history. Although Britain’s multiracial heritage is often seen as a post-war phenomenon, its capital has attracted people of African descent since at least Roman times. Mapping Black London offers new insights into this rich past, producing interactive maps, dynamic digital exhibits, curriculum material, and other educational content that allows users to encounter and discover the varied contributions made by Black people to the development of London. Led by Northeastern University teams in London and Boston, the project began in 2020 looking at the era of World War II, before moving to the eighteenth-century and highlighting the life and times of Ignatius Sancho detailed in his lively and vividly detailed letters that were published after his death in 1782. Sancho was the owner of a popular grocery shop in Westminster and the first documented Black Briton to vote in a parliamentary election. In 2023 the MBL team collaborated with the London Metropolitan Archives on their exhibition Unforgotten Lives, which showcases over 3,000 records from the parish archives of the city’s churches from 1560 to 1840 and documents the presence of people of colour throughout London via interactive maps. Future work will continue to document the nature, scale, cultural and geographical distribution of Black Londoners from the medieval to modern periods, allowing us to visualise the multi-racial foundations and histories of London and the UK.
This project gives us a powerful, interactive and immediate sense of the connection between past and present: between the streets we continue to walk on today, and the places where people of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous heritage made their mark centuries before. Explore the interactive map that details people’s baptisms, burials and some marriages, and follow the journey. Or, follow 135 journeys drawn from the several thousand entries that make up the Switching the Lens database, where approximately a quarter of parish records make reference to that person’s place of origin. Discover more by visiting the Unforgotten Lives Exhibit.
Ignatius Sancho’s London
This project showcases evidence about the life and times of Ignatius Sancho, one of the eighteenth-century’s most important Black Britons. Born enslaved, Sancho came to occupy a unique position in London society that straddled the elite social worlds of the aristocracy and the everyday life of the city. Learn more by visiting the Ignatius Sancho’s London Exhibit.
Dr. Nicole N. Aljoe: Co-Principle Investigator. Professor of English and Africana Studies at Northeastern University, Boston. Her research focus is 18th and early 19th century Black Atlantic and Caribbean literature.
Dr. Oliver Ayers: Co-Principle Investigator. Associate Professor of History at Northeastern University, London. His research focuses on race, urban space and digital historical analysis.
Amouraé Bhola-Chin: Research Assistant. Second-year History with Creative Writing student at Northeastern University, London.
Ellen Valente: Research Assistant. English with Philosophy Graduate at Northeastern University, London.
Libby Collard: Research Assistant. History with International Relations Graduate at Northeastern University, London.
Odile Jordan: Research Assistant. Third-year Philosophy with Creative Writing student at Northeastern University, London.
Dr. Andrea Kocsis: Assistant Professor of History and Data Science at Northeastern University, London. Developed the Unforgotten Lives: Clerkenwell app and interactive screen.
WEB DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Tieana Graphenreed: Project Manager. PhD student in English at Northeastern University, Boston.
Yana Mommadova: Web Developer. PhD student in Sociology at Northeastern University, Boston.
Juniper Johnson: Web Designer. PhD student in English at Northeastern University, Boston.