History of Black London - Hurstpierpoint College

History of Black London

Last Friday evening, members of the Hurst community tuned in remotely to listen to Dr Olly Ayers, Senior Lecturer in History at the New College of the Humanities, discuss his latest research project, Mapping the history of Black London during the Second World War.

This event was co-hosted by the History Department and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, as members of the school community work to increase knowledge of forgotten histories by reintegrating them into the mainstream narrative.

Dr Ayers spoke in fascinating detail about his new research project which uses ground-breaking geothermal imaging technology to track the relative concentration of black Londoners between 1935 and 1947 – and how he used the data on their locations to infer their likely activities. He also spoke about the role played by African and West Indian people in London before the war broke out, such as Amy Ashford Garvey, who brought people’s attention to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 as the first battle against the Fascism which would later sweep Europe under the Nazis.

Most significantly of all, Dr Ayers introduced the audience to the issues of integration and segregation which emerged in London, following the arrival of large numbers of African American troops after the US entered the war in 1941. He challenged the audience to consider whether the racism that some of these troops faced was an American import which came with the US soldiers or whether British people themselves harboured racist attitudes.

This was a thought-provoking, inspiring talk, and one which has given students, staff and parents plenty of food for thought as we continue on our mission to be champions of forgotten, diverse stories Katie Braithwaite, Acting Head of History (A-level)