Over the last few months Nicholas Grant and I have been developing this interactive online map to tell the story of the ANC activist Alfred Hutchinson, who in 1958 illegally left apartheid South Africa. Facing charges of treason, Hutchinson traversed Africa in an attempt to reach newly independent Ghana – a place that he hoped would be a safe haven from white supremacy and the dehumanising system of apartheid. His journey was made all the more pressing by the fact that he had met and fallen in love with Hazel Slade, a white teacher from England. Illegal under apartheid law, this interracial relationship placed the couple under intense pressure and led to increased harassment by the South Africa authorities.
The map relies on Alfred’s (Road to Ghana) and Hazel’s (The Other Side of the Road) respective accounts of this specific time in their lives. Designed as an educational resource, it also draws on and contains audio clips from an oral interview conducted with Hazel Hutchinson in September 2012. Although intended to draw attention to a very specific story, these travels tell us much about the nature anti-apartheid protest, state repression and African decolonisation throughout the 1950s. The plan is to expand these themes by embedding this map within a broader website that will contain writings, oral histories, images and documents that will further contextualise the specific themes the map addresses.
The map is something we’ve been working on in our spare time over the last few months. Nick was awarded some funding by the Leeds Humanities Research Institute and used this to conduct an oral interview with Hazel Hutchinson, which hopefully adds an additional dimension to the subject of the map. I used d3.js to make this map work and tried to bring together digital humanities and oral history. We acknowledge that there are certain shortcomings with this project – i.e. its limited scope, lack of interaction with potential users – but hopefully it succeeds in telling a interesting and under researched historical story in an innovative and engaging way. Again, we hope to build on this and situate the map within a broader educational project that will address the development of apartheid in the 1950s.
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