The new website compiles data about black alumni from CambridgeSophie Penney

On Monday, the Black Cantabs Society, which aims to “give back Cambridge’s black history” by documenting the University’s black alumni, celebrated the launch of their website.   

The Society believes that this is the “first formal effort” to compile this data. They intend for it to be used by the University to increase the visibility of black alumni and their achievements.

Nafisa Waziri, the new President, gave a tour of the online database, set up by Flora Tesse. The website allows you to look up black alumni by college, read case studies, and also includes a section on black alumni who have gone on into academia. Each person gets a credit based on the information they upload.

“We hope to compile prominent black Cantabs and build this up over time,” she said. “That’s the beauty of this project, it’s going to grow.”

The Society are determined for the data to be used by colleges: “We want to invite all of you to contact your college archivist,” Waziri urged, “because it’s likely they won’t have this information. I’m sure a lot of you will find that this is very rewarding work.”

Co-founder and founding President, Njoki Wamai, explained how the research project began. One of their influences was the election of Priscilla Mensah as CUSU President in March 2015. As she was CUSU’s first female black president, this historic event prompted the co-founders to recognise the importance of documenting Cambridge’s black history.  

“It’s about appreciating all those who’ve come before,” Wamai said. “Generations of black students have always been asking these questions, thinking ‘what other black students have studied here?’ We wanted to give people the answers.”

The project officially launched in 2015. “It started as a research society, but this is all political,” Wamai explained. “It’s also a movement.” She emphasised the importance of the society as an inclusive, social space for students of colour.

Dr Mónica Moreno Figueroa, the Society’s patron, is a lecturer in Sociology at the University, who Wamai said had been “very supportive” from the start.

As the only black female academic in Cambridge, she feels strongly about the experiences of black students at Cambridge: “You come here to thrive,” she said, “but find a lot of obstacles in your way to do with race.”

She upheld the society as “a space to celebrate that we’re here”, and has high hopes for it going forward.  

The Society also hope to establish a speakers series. The first of these will be in Queens’ College on 17th March, and will be on one of the first black students to have studied at Cambridge, Alexander Crummel