Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database


As reported in Emory Magazine, on September 2009, "Traces of Tragedy: An online database developed through Emory libraries sheds new light on the slave trade," by Mary J. Loftus -- On the Fabiana, there was Bora, a thirty-year-old male, and Lugra, a fifteen-year-old female, who disembarked in Sierra Leone in 1819. Babash, a twenty-eight-year-old male, was on the Anna Maria, embarking from Bonny in 1820.

And so the names scroll on, more than 67,000 of them, gathered from records kept during the four centuries of the slave trade, when more than 12 million Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.

Slaves Liberated from Slaver "Zeldina", Jamaica

Bringing together a group of world slave trade researchers with an innovative team of Emory digital library development experts, scholars have revised an already existing database of slave trade voyages, making the material available for free on the Internet for the first time.

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database project expands on the seminal 1999 CD-ROM The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which included more than 27,000 slaving expeditions.

“We’re trying to do for African Americans what’s been done for Euro-Americans already,” said Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History David Eltis, one of the scholars who published The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Eltis and Martin Halbert, director of digital programs and systems for Emory’s libraries, are directing the project. “What the database makes possible is the establishment of links between America and Africa in a way that already has been done by historians on Europeans for many years.”

Slaves Liberated from Slaver "Zeldina", Jamaica

Because slaves experienced a coerced migration, there was actually more detailed record keeping; the human trade was a business. The Voyages database is made up of nearly 35,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866. Records of the voyages were found in archives and libraries around the Atlantic that provided information about vessels, traders and owners, enslaved peoples, and trading routes.

Two years in the making, the expanded database includes auxiliary materials such as maps, ship logs, and manifests. The site allows users to search for information about a particular voyage, date, time frame, ship name, place of origin, and African name. The intent, Eltis says, is for everyone from genealogists to grade-schoolers to be able to use the site effectively.

The project has received funds from several sources, including $324,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities and $25,000 from Harvard’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. “This is more than a capstone to half a century of research,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr. of the Du Bois Institute. “It is a way of marrying scholarship with the wide general interest in the slave trade that has developed.” (source: Emory Magazine,)

The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database

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