We are excited about the article in the Smithsonian Magazine, “A Massive New Database Will Connect Billions of Historic Records to Tell the Full Story of American Slavery.”

As the article notes Enslaved will be launching in the Spring of 2020. We are currently adding resources to our database. If you would like to contribute to the Enslaved project (either data or support) please contact enslaved.org@gmail.com.


Enslaved has five primary objectives that are guiding its development.


  1. People: Build an interconnected system of services and tools that would (1) Allow individuals involved in the slave trade to be identified and recognized across all participating project databases; (2) Allow those identified and recognized individuals to be searched, explored and visualized in the Enslaved Hub; (3) Connect those individuals to particular events and places with a Disambiguation Tool and Authoritative Name Service in the Enslaved Hub; and (4) Create at least 25 interactive biographies of people of the slave trade as exemplary models.


  2. Linked Open Data (LOD): To accomplish the focus on people, we are using Linked Open Data (LOD) to interconnect individual projects and databases.  A LOD-based approach facilitates federated searching and browsing across all linked project data on the Hub. It also creates a network and community framework that supports the preservation of current and future slave data projects.


  3. Best practices and workflow: For online database projects, which are proliferating at a rapid pace, scholars have not agreed on best practices. The Hub would be the space for disseminating best practices for data collection, metadata standards, ontologies, and workflows.  It would also provide guidance for participating in the Hub.


  4. Scholarly recognition: The project will institute an editorial board to review datasets and projects to be included in the Hub. Having an editorial board will ensure the quality of the data, and emphasize that the database or project has been published and is worthy of consideration for scholarly credit in review processes.


  5. Preservation and sustainability: The Hub will provide a space for preservation of datasets and help identify projects in danger of going offline. All facets will be open source and contribute to developing a wide community to support the sustainability of the project.

Enslaved Hub

At the heart of the project is the Enslaved Hub. The Enslaved Hub brings together data from all participating projects, thereby allowing students, researchers, and the general public to search over numerous databases to understand and reconstruct the lives of persons who were part of the historical slave trade. This image demonstrates the main goals of the Enslaved Hub, and how it will allow researchers, descent communities, and the public to engage the history of the slave trade like never before.


Linked Open Data (LOD)

LOD is a method of publishing data to the web under an open license.  It is concerned with promoting broad re-use by structuring data so it is machine readable and linked to other similarly published data. For our purposes, a LOD approach allows users to track, across time and over space, individual slaves and groups of slaves who appear in multiple databases and to run statistical analyses across many datasets rather than only one.

To put it simply, LOD works by assigning things (people, places, concepts) a unique identifier, called a Unique Resource Identifier (URI). These URIs can be used to locate information and descriptions of the thing they identify. LOD connects data together by linking URIs into a framework of triples: Subjects, Predicates, and Objects. Each triple represents a relationship between things. For example, a dataset that states “Ana was born in 1831,” defines Ana as the subject, born as the predicate, and 1831 as the object.

In Enslaved, a unique and persistent URI will be generated for each individual contained within participating project data. These URIs will be a central part of the Authoritative People Service & Disambiguation Tool, as they provide a single, disambiguated record for each individual that can be referenced (either in the Enslaved Hub or by a 3rd party application). In doing this, the enslaved individuals could also be better connected to specific events and places, thereby making the tapestry of knowledge about slavery and the enslaved much richer and more complete.