Scholars Assemble a Massive New Database on Enslaved People

Scholars affiliated with the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, the MATRIX Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University, and other institutions have established a new open-source database called Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade. The database is a repository of information and stories about those who were enslaved or enslavers, worked in the slave trade, or helped emancipate enslaved people. The entries run from the 15th century to the late 1800s and span Western Europe, Africa, and North and South America.

Visitors to the site can target searches through more than 5 million data points, including names, genders, birthplaces, places of death, and occupations of individuals, collected from existing research housed at institutions around the world.

“There are many projects at different institutions in the area of slavery studies, but we had a conundrum where much of the work was siloed, and if you were a researcher you couldn’t necessarily see all the information at once, so we tried to find a space that could link these different projects,” said Daryle Williams, one of the principal investigators on the project, an associate professor of history, and associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland.

This spring, researchers plan to make more biographies available to read for free on the website, focusing on entries from the Dictionary of Caribbean and Latin American Biography. The leaders of this project also plan to develop podcasts and videos to highlight stories found in the database and explain the archival processes in an effort to educate more people about the importance of digital humanities in historical research.


Comments (6)

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  1. Blue Holloway says:

    Is this database available for public access?

  2. Donna Driver-Zwartkruis says:

    Please keep me informed of your data base and any related research .
    Best regards,
    Dr. D.A.Driver-Zwartkruis
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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