Emory Brings Slave Trade Database to the Web

Emory University scholars were recently awarded grants to make accessible and free on the Internet a mammoth database of the voyages of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

The scholars received $324,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities and $25,000 from Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research to revise and expand a CD-ROM database of 27,000 slave trade voyages called “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” originally made available in 1999.

“This resource is more than a capstone to half a century of research,” says Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard’s DuBois Institute. “It is a way of marrying scholarship with the wide general interest in the slave trade that has developed.”

Dr. David Eltis, the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History at Emory and one of the creators of the original database, is directing the project along with Martin Halbert, director of digital programs and systems for Emory’s libraries. Eltis, who has been a research associate at the DuBois Institute since 1993, is the author of Economic Growth and The Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas.

“Everyone wants to know where their antecedents came from, and certainly Europeans have been more thoroughly covered by historians,” Eltis says. “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.”

The project is part of Emory Library’s MetaScholar Initiative, which focuses on supporting several different lines of scholarship with the goal of realizing possibilities for research and scholarship in the digital age. In the past five years, the initiative has received more than $3.6 million in grant support from organizations such as the Mellon Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The number of slave trade voyages listed on the database will be increased by 30 percent for the free site. And new information will be attached to more than one-third of the voyages that were already a part of the 1999 CD-ROM. The expanded database will include maps, ship logs and manifests. After two years, online researchers will be able to submit new data to an editorial board to further enlarge the database.

The free site will be presented in two different formats: one for professional researchers and another for K-12 students and general audiences.

By bringing the materials online “we are thinking about the needs of very different groups of users,” Halbert says. “Scholars and researchers in higher education will want to look at specific time periods and generate comparative statistics, charts, graphs and geographic displays of information. K-12 students have much less background knowledge so they will need more context to be able to use the material effectively.”

— By Ibram Rogers


Reader comments on this story:

There is currently 3 reader comment on this story:

“This is so necessary”

This is so-o-o needed, necessary, academic and painful. Hopefully it can not only teach but help heal the nation/world.  Hyper-kudos and, “Thank you’s” to those who are making this possible.
-J Harris

“very appreciative”
I think the news of the Slave Trade Database is GREAT! I am anxiously awaiting! Important information that needs to be accessible.

    Very appreciative of the work that will go into this project.

-T Barbee

“a long time coming”
There is so much research needed to develop information necessary to help (us) African Americans become self determinant. This will be an excellent resource. I am really looking forward to working with this database.

– D.C. Offutt

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