Enslaved Background Image



With the help of scholars, educators, and family historians, Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade (Enslaved.org) is rapidly expanding in 2022. We are building a robust, open-source architecture to discover, connect, and visualize 600,000 (and growing) people records and 5 million data points. From archival fragments and spreadsheet entries, we see the lives of the enslaved in richer detail. Explore the data and life stories on Enslaved.org and read articles on data-driven research about the lives of the enslaved in the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation.


In recent years, a growing number of archives, databases, and collections that organize and make sense of records of historical enslavement have become freely and readily accessible for scholarly and public consumption. This proliferation of projects and databases presents a number of challenges:

In response to these challenges, Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University (MSU), in partnership with the MSU Department of History, the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, the Mellon Foundation, and scholars at multiple institutions of education, research, and public exhibition developed Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade. The primary focus of Enslaved.org is people—individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, were connected to the slave trade, and worked to emancipate slaves.


The project is guided by the following objectives:

  1. People: We aim to build an interconnected system of online tools that (1) enables the identification of individuals, often named, across all participating project databases; (2) allows those identified and recognized individuals to be searched, explored and visualized; and (3) connects those individuals to particular events and places with a disambiguation tool.
  2. Stories: Present the variety and scope of the lives of the enslaved through interactive, narrative biographies, written for student and general audiences.
  3. Linked Open Data (LOD): To accomplish the focus on people, we are using linked open data (LOD), i.e. structured data available under an open license, with the help of Wikibase, to interconnect individual projects and databases. A LOD-based approach facilitates federated searching and browsing across all linked project data on Enslaved.org.
  4. Best practices and workflow: For online database projects, which are proliferating at a rapid pace, scholars have not agreed on best practices. The site is a space for disseminating best practices for data collection, metadata standards, ontology controlled vocabularies, and workflows. It also provides guidance for making submissions to the project.
  5. Scholarly recognition: The project ensures the quality of the data through extensive review. Those wishing to contibute data submit their dataset and an accompanying data article to the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation. Through a process that mirrors that of scholarly print journals, editors send submissions to peer reviewers or have them rigorously reviewed in-house. Peer reviewed datasets and data articles should be, therefore, recognized as full-fledged publications by institutions of higher education.
  6. Preservation and sustainability: Enslaved.org provides a mechanism for the preservation of datasets in the Harvard Dataverse or other appropriate repositories. All facets of the project are open source. We have developed a wide set of mechanisms and community of supporters to ensure project sustainability.
  7. Inclusion: Enslaved.org is building an inclusive community of researchers and scholarly communications informed and guided by the principles of an ethical, anti-racist approach to the peoples of the historical slave trade and their descendants.

Contact Us

Message our team with questions or feedback at enslaved.org@gmail.com


Matrix the Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences
Michigan State University
Natural Science Building
288 Farm Lane
Room 409
East Lansing, MI 48823
Tel: 517-355-9300


Enslaved.org Team

Principal Investigators


Walter Hawthorne, Michigan State University
Dean Rehberger, Michigan State University
Daryle Williams, University of California, Riverside


Team Members


Sophie Alegi, Research Assistant (2021-present)
Ryan Carty, Research Assistant (2017-present)
Joshua Christ, Software Development (2017-present)
Anthony D'Onofrio, Software Development (2017-present)
Elizabeth Donaldson, Data Integration (2020-present)
Rachel Egan, Data Integration (2021-present)
Marisol Fila, Research Assistant (2020-present)
Catherine Foley, Project Manager (2017-present)
Jeffrey Goeke-Smith, Systems Administrator (2017-present)
Michael Green, Communications and Engagement (2020-present)
Callie Hamm, Assistant (2019-present)
Pascal Hitzler, Ontology Design Development (2018-present)
Candace Keller, Matrix Associate Director (2020-present)
Sharon Leon, Data Practices Curator (2017-present)
Jeffrey Mixter, Ontology Design Development (2018-present)
Jennifer Mojica Santana, Research Assistant (2021-present)
Kristina E. Poznan, Editorial Associate (2020-present)
Alicia M. Sheill, Project Manager and Data Integration (2017-present)
Cogan Shimizu, Ontology Design Development (2018-present)
Austin Truchan, Design (2017-present)
Ethan Watrall, Principal Investigator and User Experience Design (2017-2021)


Former Team Members


Kylene Cave, Research Assistant (2017-2019)
Dave Glovsky, Research Assistant (2018-2019)
Seila Gonzalez Estrecha, Head of Software Development (2017-2022)
Quinn Hirt, Ontology Design Development (2018-2020)
Kim Hyeungsuk, Development (2019-2020)
Briona Jones, Research Assistant (2020-2021)
Andrew Joye, Software Development (2017-2020)
Andrew Kim, Development (2019-2020)
LaTara McLemore, Research Assistant (2021)
Nicholas Mikelsavage, Software Development (2017-20?)
Drew Schineller, Development (2018-2020)
Matthew Schleusener, Software Development (2017-2019)
Duncan Tarr, Data Integration (2017-2020)
Elizabeth Timbs, Research Assistant (2018-2019)


Collaborating Organizations