Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network is one of the founding partner projects for Enslaved, and we are excited to work with its team to link its datasets to the Enslaved Hub.
Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network is an open access data repository of information on the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World. Slave Biographies began by bringing together two significant databases created by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall and Walter Hawthorne. Hall created the Louisiana Slave Database which was released in 2000, and was the result of Hall’s patient and arduous work since 1984. It recorded over 100,000 descriptions of slaves living in Louisiana between 1719 and 1820 by drawing on many different types of documents. Her work received much-deserved attention from the national and international media beginning with a front page story in the Sunday New York Times, Identity Restored to 100,000 Louisiana Slaves, and was featured in a number of books, articles and conferences of several scholarly disciplines. It was published on the world wide web with a user friendly search engine in 2001 at www.ibiblio.org/laslave, and was incorporated into the search engine of ancestry.com.
Walter Hawthorne spent significant time in the Brazilian state of Maranhão and later assembled the Maranhão Inventories Slave Database (MISD). Hawthorne’s dataset contains information about the lives of about 8,500 slaves in Maranhão from 1767 to 1831. Data was derived from inventories of slaveholders’ possessions that can be found in un-cataloged boxes in the Arquivo Judiciário do Estado do Maranhão in São Luís, Brazil.
Slave Biographies united these projects and began officially in 2011, when funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities allowed the development team to define a core set of comprehensive metadata fields for biographical data about slaves and create a database for this information in Kora, the open source digital repository platform that powers Slave Biographies. It includes the names, ethnicities, skills, occupations, and illnesses of enslaved persons. Phase one of the multi-phase project allows users to access three data sets: one about slaves in Maranhão, Brazil, one about slaves in colonial Louisiana, and another about freed slaves in Antebellum Louisiana. They can download datasets, search for ancestors, and run statistical analysis.
Phase two of the project allows researchers of slavery in the Atlantic World to contribute new databases, and has recently added the Free Black Database, compiled by Brian Mitchell in 2016, to the project. The Free Black Database includes 2,818 enslaved persons recorded in The Mayor’s Register of Free Blacks in the City of New Orleans from 1840 to 1864, and links together multiple document types including baptism records, notary manumissions, and emancipation records where applicable.
Phase two is also where the Enslaved Hub will contribute most. Scholars will be able to share their data widely and be cited for it. They will also be able to store their data securely, use analytical tools we are developing, and collaborate with other researchers. The Enslaved Hub will enhance the Slave Biographies project by networking its datasets with those of other partner projects, and developing tools for analyzing and visualizing the datasets. The Hub’s Disambiguation Tool will be invaluable for instances where records from two or more primary source documents describe the same individual, and will allow users to locate all records related to individual across every database.