This digital project (re)creates the space and place of Black Caribbean/West Indian immigrants in postwar twentieth century Toronto, Canada. With the intentions of creating an ongoing public historical archive, Marlene Gaynair uses spatial analytic software to transform analog documents into a multidimensional interactive mapping exhibition. Inserting pieces of oral narratives, music, advertisements and photographs, Islands in the North makes space for “blackness” in Canadian scholarship through the "black geographies" scholarship of Katherine McKittrick.

This is possibly the first digital map to challenge the narrative of the “Great White North” and “ethnic enclaves” in the center of Canada’s largest and culturally significant city. Points of interest such as churches, nightclubs, beauty shops, groceries, and subway stations trace the development of black Caribbean-Canadian communities and business classes, along with the dispersal of people and places over time. This mapping of "Black Toronto" highlights a long history of blackness in the Canadian public sphere. Through (re)creating space and place in the archive, the mapping of “Black Toronto” challenges what it means to be Canadian.


Marlene Gaynair is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She studies the African Diaspora/Atlantic World and African-American history in the twentieth century. Islands in the North is a digital humanities accompaniment to her upcoming dissertation on Jamaican diasporas in urban North America. Jamaican beef patties and protective styles sustain me.

Islands In The North is funded by the Rutgers Digital Humanities Initiative.

Special shoutout goes out to Francesca Giannetti, Hannah Griggs, and Dr. Paul Israel. All the guidance, advice, and assistance in the last quarter was priceless. You all made learning and loving digital humanities possible. Thank you toBarbara Baillargeon, Dr. Henry Lovejoy, The Flyer Vault, Torontoist, Toronto Public Libraries, York University Libraries, and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey for all the resources and help along the way.

Special thanks to Dr. Mia Bay, Dr. Walter Rucker, Dr. Bayo Holsey, Dr. Kathy Lopez, Dr. Anne Rubenstein, Dr. Michele A. Johnson, Dr. Barrington Walker, and Dr. Paul Lovejoy.

Of course, all the love to Francesca D'Amico-Cuthbert, Dr. Funke Aladejebi, Taylor Moore, Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders, Rhonda George, Ian Andre Espinet, Jason Steele, Sean Kradjian, Anthony Morgan, Reuben Briggs, Jason Cuthbert, and my youngest brother for the motivation, kindness, and support. We made it! Whoever I missed, blame my head and not my heart

Feel free to contact me here, or follow me on Twitter @blkatlanticCDN.