Mellon Foundation Awards Nearly $1.5 Million for Slave Trade Database

Mellon Foundation Awards Nearly $1.5 Million for Slave Trade Database

Michigan State University has announced a $1.47 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to build an online database focused on the African slave trade.

The grant will support the first phase of a project to create an online hub that connects data collections at eight universities, including MSU's Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences. When finished, the project, "Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade," will enable scholars and the public to search millions of pieces of slave data to identify enslaved individuals and their descendants. Users also will be able to run analyses of enslaved populations and create maps, charts, and graphics.

The first phase of the project, which follows a planning phase supported by a $19,450 grant from Mellon, is expected to take eighteen months and demonstrate that data can be linked across the participating databases. They are: African Origins and Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, led by David Eltis and Paul Lachance at Emory University; The Slave Societies Digital Archive, led by Jane Landers at Vanderbilt University; the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography and the Dictionary of African Biography and African American National Biography, led by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Steven Niven, and Abby Wolf at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University; Freedom Narratives, led by Paul Lovejoy at York University; Legacies of British Slave-Ownership, led by Keith McClelland at University College, London; and The Liberated Africans Project, led by Henry Lovejoy at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Daryle Williams at the University of Maryland.

"'Enslaved' brings new digital tools and analytical approaches to the study of African slavery and the Atlantic slave trade," said Walter Hawthorne, chair of MSU's Department of History, who will co-lead the project with Matrix director Dean Rehberger and associate director Ethan Watrall. "By linking data compiled by some of the world's foremost historians, it will allow scholars and the public to learn about individuals' lives and to draw new, broad conclusions about processes that had an indelible impact on the world."

"In bringing together data from a number of highly successful projects," said Rehberger, "we have the opportunity from many small threads of data to weave together [the] lives of enslaved individuals once thought lost to history."

(Image credit: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities)

"MSU Uses $1.5M Mellon Foundation Grant to Build Massive Slave Trade Database." Michigan State University Press Release 01/09/2018.