Black people have been living in the British south coast for over 500 years in a variety of different roles. In the 16th, 17th and 18th century as indentured labour, servants, sailors, and merchants. Later in the 19th and 20th century as soldiers , fighter pilots, seamen, artists, and foreign dignitaries. There are also some whose heritage has all but been eradicated and they have been absorbed into the native population. Although there is little photographic evidence; the residue of the aforementioned presence is still somewhere out there.
For many years there have been an assortment of small projects collecting and showcasing individual stories and episodes about the presence of Black people (those of African & Caribbean background) in the Southampton area. This has ranged from oral histories, Black History Month exhibitions, outdoor celebrations, City Council records, information contained within the two local universities, church records and personal recollections from institutions and private companies where there was knowledge of the presence of Black peoples. This has been in the form of documents, photographs, physical artefacts, films, oral testimony etc. . Nonetheless those who have been involved over the years must be acknowledged for the contributions that they have made regarding their oral histories, written histories, photographs and video recordings which has provided an important foundation that we can build on.
The Black Archives South came to the conclusion that what was needed was a space where members of the community, especially young people, could come and find positive representations of themselves in history and culture, painting a more comprehensive picture of Black presence in the south of England.