FLORA Nwapa, the first female African novelist to be published in the English language in Britain, has been described as the mother of modern African literature.

She is also famed for working to reunite children with their families after the Nigerian civil war in the 1970s.

Less known is that Nwapa was a graduate of Edinburgh University where she gained a Diploma in Education in 1958.

Now the university is to feature Nwapa in an online project and a later exhibition telling the often overlooked, forgotten and untold stories of Edinburgh University’s remarkable global alumni who are being celebrated as part of a new project.

UncoverED explores the history of students from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas between 1800 and 1980.

More than 20 unearthed stories of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) alumni feature on a new website. Edinburgh University stated: “The initiative aims to more fully reflect the university’s diversity and international impact over the centuries and examine how its historical links with empire brought many students to Edinburgh.”

UncoverED is led by PhD researcher Henry Mitchell and teaching fellow Tom Cunningham, working with eight further students. The project is funded by Edinburgh Global.

Student researcher Lea Ventre said: “I think it’s unprecedented to have a project like this, looking at the imperial history of the university, and it’s been amazing working with Henry and Tom who have guided us through the archives, something that I’ve never done before, and working with other students to uncover the hidden history of the university.

The team has uncovered stories such as that of Yuan Changying, who studied in Edinburgh between 1917 and 1921 and was the University’s first female Chinese graduate.

After graduation she returned to China and became a professor and a writer. She became one of China’s earliest feminists, making her name through dramas focussing on female status in traditional Chinese families.

James “Africanus” Beale Horton is considered the University’s first African graduate, earning his medical degree in 1859.

Upon returning to his native Sierra Leone, he worked for the British Army as a military physician.

He also gained renown as a historian and political theorist, writing several books and an array of articles and essays, and was the founder of the Commercial Bank of West Africa.

The team contacted families of some of the graduates to find out more about their lives after leaving Edinburgh.

Relatives have provided letters and photographs to help tell their stories.

They found accounts of the University’s Indian Students’ Association and Afro-West Indian Association, dating back to 1883.

The project will be featured in an exhibition in the Chrystal Macmillan building from January 31 next year. This will be developed into a display featuring biographies, social histories and artwork for the European Conference of African Studies hosted by the University’s Centre for African Studies in June.

Professor James Smith, Vice Principal International, said: “With this project we wanted to unearth stories, be they lost, forgotten, or never told. In doing so we can celebrate some of the huge achievements of our BAME alumni, and reflect on how we tell a story of our university that better reflects its diversity and global reach.”