Slavery Digital Humanities

Slavery Digital Humanities – Websites, Databases, Digital Archives, and Collections.  An Inventory (October 2021)

This inventory is a collection of websites and digital databases as well as digital projects over the longue durée. It covers a wide range of research areas (the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, continental Africa and America etc.) and many different approaches, techniques, and media.

The inventory is intended to be both a pedagogical tool for students and junior researchers, and an outreach tool to make these numerous digital projects accessible to a wider public.

The idea for the inventory emerged from an e-workshop on Slavery Digital Humanities held by the BCDSS in collaboration with the European research program SLAFNET and the Center for Research on Slavery and Indenture Studies (CRSI) of the University of Mauritius in June 2021.

It is a peer-based « living medium » that will improve in time with the participation of all those involved in the development of Slavery Digital Humanities.

Websites and Digital Databases online

This website offers a database in which 30,000 surnames have been listed, given to more than 80,000 Guadeloupeans from 1848. They were all slaves and had just been freed by the decree of abolition of slavery proclaimed on April 27, 1848 by the provisional government of the second French Republic. By typing a surname in a tab, the users can access the names, first names, matricules and other informations concerning people freed in 1848 and who, before the abolition of slavery, had only a first name and a matricule as their identity. This database has been initiated by the Comité Marche du 23 mai 1998 and the Guadeloupe region. 

Between Oceans and Continents brings together information on almost 14,000 enslaved Africans registered in Mozambique during the second half of the nineteenth century. These individuals were part of a larger effort by the Portuguese government to register all slaves living in its overseas possessions with the objective of gradually abolishing slavery in the empire. The website provides users with three resources. First, a database of the individuals registered containing their personal information along with that of their masters. Second, short essays about the history of the registration, the documents it produced, and the individuals involved in that process. Finally, a gallery of contemporary images providing visual context for the available information. These resources allow students and teachers to further understand the history of slavery and abolition in Africa, particularly in regions formerly under Portuguese colonial rule. This site is built and maintained by Rice University, USA. Lead Researchers : Daniel B. Domingues da Silva (PI), Rice University and Edward Alpers, University of California-Los Angeles.

This online collection, provided by the Library of the Congress (US), contains over 2.300 first-person accounts and 500 photographs of former slaves. The narratives were collected as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) in the 1930s. The volumes are arranged alphabetically by the state in which the interviews were conducted and thereunder by the surname of the informant. The database can also be searched i.e. by format, date or location. Additionally, there can be found some articles and essays about the collection.

The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, hosted at the University College London (UCL), built a growing online Encyclopaedia of British Slave-Owners. In the first phase, the researchers evaluated data on slaveholders who had received government compensation payments when slavery was abolished in 1807. In the second phase of the project, which is still ongoing, data from the approximately 4,000 estates were evaluated, through which another 20,000 slaveholders could be identified. Detailed filter functions make the database easy to search. It is possible to search not only in the entire data set, but also to search for estates or for persons in the individual categories Commercial, Cultural, Historical, Imperial, Physical and Political Legacies. Family members of the slave owners can also be tracked down.

The Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection holds over 6000 pieces dating from 1724 to 1897, which relate to the social, economic, civil, and legal status of enslaved and free people of colour in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans. A large part of the manuscripts consists of municipal records from the city of New Orleans. There is a collection guide which organizes the material by place and date and a person Index which enables you to find the names of individuals. On the website of the Xavier University of Louisiana Library Digital Archives & Collections (second link) the collection can also be explored by the advanced search function.

Documenting Africans in Trans-Atlantic Slavery (DATAS) is a project which develops a new and innovative method to explore African ethnonyms from the era of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (ca. 1500-1867). Due to this method, DATAS aims to contribute to the understanding of origins and trajectories of people of African descent in the trans-Atlantic world. The DATAS website serves as a platform which provides access to available data on trans-Atlantic migration and identity through a list of links. The project is directed by Paul E. Lovejoy. is an online database, which makes personal data of people who were enslaved, owned slaved and were connected to slave trade freely accessible. The repository already contains over 900.000 records from the historical slave trade and is rapidly expanding. The data can be easily explored using the advanced search function in the categories “Person”, “Event”, “Place” and “Source”. In Addition, provides graphics and visualizations to overview the data as well as articles and data-driven research about the lives of the enslaved in the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation. The project was initiated by the Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University (MSU) with the aim to connect and preserve data from a growing number of archives, databases and collections that organize records of historical enslavement.

Equianos’ World is an online project, which provides information and material about the life of Olaudah Equiano, an enslaved Igbo boy, who is also known under the name given to him as a slave, Gustavus Vassa. Equiano wrote his autobiography “The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, as Published by Himself”, which first appeared in 1789 and was influential in the abolition of the British slave trade. Besides documents and editions of Equiano’s writing, the website provides articles and research about him and the context of the British slave trade in the 18th century, including images, maps, audio and video resources. The open-source digital repository is directed by Paul E. Lovejoy and hosted by the Harriet Tubman Institute at York University.

The Esclavage & Indemnités website presents data on the indemnities paid by Haiti in 1825 to French slave owners, and those paid by France in 1849 to slave owners in the French Empire. The website was designed within the framework of the REPAIRS research project (CIRESC, ISJPS, URMIS), which aims to make a multidisciplinary study of indemnity, reparations and compensation for slavery between the 19th and 21st centuries.

The project Freedom Narratives provides an online digital repository of autobiographical testimonies and biographical data of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic world. Most of the individuals in this repository were born free in Africa and travelled within West Africa or across the Atlantic in the so called “Middle Passage”. Until now, the project has digitalized 2.000 testimonies, which can be explored through a search functions or by category (i.e. Gender, Status, Age, Place). Additionally, the website provides bibliographical references and references to teaching and learning material. Freedom Narratives is directed by Paul E. Lovejoy and supported by the York University, the Andre W. Mellon Foundation and Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University (MSU).

Websites and Digital Databases online

Freedom on the Move is a database of fugitives from North American slavery. With the advent of newspapers in the American colonies, enslavers posted « runaway ads » to try to locate fugitives. Additionally, jailers posted ads describing people they had apprehended in search of the enslavers who claimed the fugitives as property. Created to control the movement of enslaved people, the ads ultimately preserved the details of individual lives--their personality, appearance, and life story. Taken collectively, the ads constitute a detailed, concise, and rare source of information about the experiences of enslaved people. Freedom on the Move will serve as a research aid, a pedagogical tool, and a resource for genealogists. Scholars, students, and citizen historians will be able to use the data produced from the ads in new and creative ways. Several institutions participated in this project, such as the Cornell University, the University of Alabama, the University of New Orleans, the Ohio State University, the University of Kentucky.

H-Slavery is one of the leading online forum for slavery studies, which was founded in 1995. The forum publishes reviews and information on current events, projects and job openings. Via blogs and digital forums, H-Slavery offers opportunities for academic discussions and professional exchange. Due to advanced search functions, the website can be searched for particular content. The forum is run by a group of interdisciplinary scientists from around the world on a volunteer basis.

This project collects and curates datasets on slave trade and slavery in the Indian Ocean and wider maritime Asian worlds. Archival sources and databases are made available online.

The IOMASTD is part of the Dataverse Project, an open source web application to share, preserve, cite, explore, and analyze research data. The Dataverse Project is being developed at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), along with many collaborators and contributors worldwide.

The digital project “Language of Marks” was initiated by Drs. Ladly and Keefer and aims to develop a searchable visual database using the entries from the 19th century Registers of Liberated Africans, which have been collected and digitized within the archives of Freetown, Sierra Leone. To reveal individual identities and origins, the researchers employ historical and archival research in an interdisciplinary methodological approach adapted from art, design and the digital humanities, with the application of accessible platforms and interfaces for lab and field work. The visual database is still in the process of being set up, but once completed it should “enable researchers and others to review, compare and decode visualised marks connoting individual identities, which may assist scholars and members of the public in better understanding critical questions of African identities and origin”. The project is supported by various Universities from Canada, the United States and Nigeria.

Dedicated to the « maroon » slaves in the Atlantic world, this platform brings together some 150,000 listings of fugitive slaves and 7,000 prison lists. « Marooning » is a form of resistance which has been practiced with regularity by enslaved men and women in the slave societies of the Atlantic world. Initially focused on Santo Domingo, the project now also covers French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, South Carolina, Louisiana and Lower Canada (18th-19th centuries). The website features an interactive map and a database. By entering, for example, the name of the colony or the names of the « maroon » slaves themselves, the user is able to take cognizance of the related (digitalized and retranscribed) documents. The site was first launched in 2009. The co-directors of the research team are Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec and Leon Robichaud (Sherbrooke University).

Liberated Africans retraces the lives of over 250.000 people, who were emancipated under global campaigns to abolish slavery in the 19th century. The project includes liberated Africans of the Atlantic slave trade and of the Indian Ocean trade and collects multilingual data from all over the world. The diverse types of documents include proceedings for about 1.000 trials, registers containing biographical sketches for people removed from slave ships (including physical descriptions), labour contracts, anti-slavery legislation, correspondence on resettlement policies, images of captured slave ships and imagery of some Liberated Africans. The growing database can be searched for courts, cases and sources. The project is directed by Paul E. Lovejoy.

In April 1795, a number of slaves were arrested at Pointe Coupée for planning a revolution. Their idea was to set fire to a shed on the Julien Poydras estate. The conspiracy was betrayed, and after a crackdown, a trial began on May 4. Within a month, 23 of the 57 convicted slaves had been hanged for their plans to massacre white plantation owners to gain their freedom. The user can search and browse documents from the Pointe Coupée slave conspiracy trials, data and bibliography. An interactive map represents places associated with the 1791 and 1795 conspiracies in Pointe Coupée, Louisiana. Director of the project : Bryan Wagner, University of California, Berkeley.

The digital project “Musical Passage” explores the story of early African diasporic music in Jamaica by providing a multimedia presentation of Hans Sloane’s 1707 “Voyage to the Islands”. This unique document includes the earliest transcription of African music in the Caribbean. It contains several pieces of music, that were collected by Sloane from performers, who were probably survivors of the Middle Passage. The project is a collaborative endeavour by Laurent Dubois, David Gartner, and Mary Caton Lingold, who aim “to make audible what otherwise falls silent in the historical record”. The website offers not only a musical reconstruction and detailed textual interpretation of the piece, but also further reading tips and links to similar projects.

This digital archive presents the results of a huge digitalization afford, undertaken by the National Archives of the Netherlands. 1.9 million scans have become accessible so far from important archives of slavery from the Netherlands, England, Guyana and Suriname. These include manifold sources like ships’ logbooks, shipment overviews, invoices, plantation lists and letters. Numerous links to scans from the collections of other institutions are also included. The digital archive is searchable and thereby very user-friendly, even though you have to book an online seat to enter the reading room. Although most of the inventories are only available in Dutch, the website offers the possibility to translate some of the content by using the Google Translate extension.

North American Slave Narratives collects books and articles that document the individual and collective story of Black people struggling for freedom and human rights in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. This collection includes all the existing autobiographical narratives of self-emancipated and formerly enslaved people published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920. Also included are many of the biographies of self-emancipated and formerly enslaved people and some significant fictionalized first-person accounts of enslavement published in English before 1920. "North American Slave Narratives" is part of Documenting the American South (DocSouth), one of the most important digital publishing initiatives at the University of North Carolina. 


Websites and Digital Databases online

This blog presents one of the triangular voyages of the transatlantic slave trade. The journey of the ship The Unity can be followed via an interactive map. First traveling from Flushing, Netherlands, with exchange goods to Africa, then with enslaved Africans to the Caribbean and finally back home with a ship hold loaded with the harvest of plantations. The Unity departed on October 1, 1761, and completed her voyage on March 25, 1763. The administration of The Unity (the logbook of the first mate, the journal of the surgeon, the trade book etc) has been preserved in the archives of a Dutch private commercial enterprise, the Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC), which are administered by the Zeeland Archives in Middelburg, the Netherlands. The idea for this blog is from the Zeeland Archives. The objective is to draw attention to archives in general and the archives of the Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC) in particular. The weblog was published day by day from October 1, 2013 to March 25, 2015.

Runaway Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Britain is a searchable database of over 800 newspaper advertisements placed by masters and owners seeking the capture and return of enslaved and bound people who had escaped. In these advertisements physical characteristics, mannerisms, habits, skills and inclinations of the enslaved people or bound servants are described. Therefore, the newspapers provide a rich source of information about slavery and bondage in eighteenth-century Britain, which differed considerably from slavery in the colonies. The database is easily searchable and sorted by newspaper title, region and date. Runaway Slaves is a project hosted by the University of Glasgow.

The Atlantic Database Network is an open access database, including biographical information on the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World. The project is still in process and has digitalized until now three data sets: one about slaves in Maranhão, Brazil, one about slaves in colonial Louisiana, and another about freed slaves in Antebellum Louisiana. The Datasets are searchable by the categories date, name, race and gender, which makes it easy for the user to search for ancestors or run statistical analysis. There can be also found a list of other slave datasets, which are available online. In its next phase, the project invites researchers of slavery in the Atlantic World to contribute new databases.

This website provides an animated thematic map, narrating the spatial history of the greatest slave insurrection in the eighteenth century British Empire, that took place in 1760-1 in Jamaica during Britain’s Seven Year’s War against France. The animated map was curated by Prof. Charles Warren and aims to offer an archive of key documentary evidence. Although the presentation cannot be taken as an exhaustive database, the interactive map offers an enlightening interpretation of the military campaign’s spatial dynamics

EURESCL intends to locate the slave trade and slavery in the history of the construction of the European identity, interpreted at national or local levels, and to investigate the continuity – or discontinuity – between historical processes in which turning points might have been defined by different dates of the abolition of slavery. The research activities are implemented, in a multidisciplinary and comparative approach, within several thematic areas distributed in 7 workpackages with databases put online directly on the website (launched in 2008). EURESCL is a project funded under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities of the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission. The project has been awarded the 2013 "Stars of Europe" prize. Scientific Coordinator : Myriam Cottias, CIRESC-CNRS.


On this website of the British Online Archives can be found five digitalized volumes concerning the slave trade in Liverpool in the second half of the 18th century, supplemented by the papers of captain James Brown, from the post-abolition period (ca. 1807-1851). Over the course of the century, Liverpool became Britain’s busiest and most profitable slave-trading port. The collection contains the papers of merchants who sold enslaved African people to new markets in the Americas. These include sales accounts, letters, journals, inventory lists, sailing directions and logs and thereby deal with diverse aspects of the trade, from payments made by slave owners to dealings with groups along the coast of West Africa. A contextual essay and archive guide by Prof. Kenneth Morgan provides further context and helps to navigate in this rich collection.

The Slave Society Digital Archive, initiated and led by Jane Landers and hosted at Vanderbilt University, digitalized and thereby preserved a huge amount of endangered ecclesiastical and secular documents related to Africans and African-descended people in the slave societies of Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and Spanish Florida. The archive contains over 700.000 digital images drawn close to 2.000 volumes dating from the sixteenth to twentieth century and thereby constitutes the most extensive serial record for the history of Africans in the Atlantic World. The vast material can be searched by geographical origin and provides also further information about the indigenous, European, and Asian populations who lived alongside the slaves. The project continues its digitalization work in Angola, Benin, Mexico and Uruguay.

Slave Voyages is an innovative digital project in which vast amounts of data from libraries and archives of the Atlantic world (concerning trans-Atlantic and intra-American slave trade as well as African names) have been systematically processed and made accessible in interactive maps, timelines, graphics and animations. The project is unique both in terms of the creative and user-oriented modes of representation and the amounts of data processed, and is the result of years of interdisciplinary collaboration between historians, librarians, curriculum specialists, cartographers, computer programmers, and web designers, in consultation with scholars of the slave trade from universities in Europe, Africa, South America, and North America. The database offers unique possibilities for quantitative research, especially since the available maps, graphs and statistics can be quickly and precisely adapted to the respective research interests by means of filter and search functions. The website is currently hosted at Rice University.

The project “Slavery Images. A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora” is a growing digital collection, which currently contains over 1.200 images. The rich material can be searched according to its geographical origin via an interactive map according or via thematic headings. Another visual feature provided by the project is a 3D browser-based model of Annaberg, which is one of the most intact sugar plantations in the Virgin Islands. The project was initiated by Prof. Jerome S. Handler and set up by Michael Tuite to serve as a tool and resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students and the general public.

SHADD hosts an extensive collection of primary documents and archival inventories that are housed at the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas under the direction of Prof. Paul. E. Lovejoy. SHADD was founded in association with the UNESCO Slave Route Project with support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History. SHADD publishes manuscripts, documents and transcriptions in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Hausa and other languages relevant to the history of African diaspora and has evolved into an umbrella that links various research initiatives, including Freedom Narratives, Proyecto Baquaqua, Equiano’s World, Liberated Africans, Le Marronnage dans le Monde Atlantique, Slave Societies Digital Archive, Slavery Images.

Mapping Marronage is an interactive visualization of the trans-Atlantic networks of intellectual, creative and political exchange created by enslaved people in the 18th and 19th century. It traces the geographic reach, crossings and intersections of letters, testimonies and financial exchanges by enslaved people of African-descent. Mapping Marronage visualizes flight as process, as lived reality and as relationship to space and power in slaveholding societies. As a resource for research, the visualization presents information on the overlaps and intersections in the lives, movement and work of different enslaved people who may not initially appear to be connected. The site also provides curated access to archival material and allows users to consult and engage with a variety of primary documents from archives around the world (letters, inventories, manumission papers, testimonies…). As a teaching tool, Mapping Marronage allows students to engage in hands-on collaboration that bridges that gap between often-solitary archival work and collaborative project work.

Walk With Web provides digital solutions to humanities projects to make their research accessible online in a sustainable and user-friendly way and to develop robust databases. In doing so, the organization supports digital research in North America, Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa. Walk With Web has created a digital content management service, which is currently supporting many research projects, including Freedom Narratives, Slavery Images, Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, Creating a Visual Language of Marks, Documenting Africans in Trans-Atlantic Slavery (DATAS) Project, Studies in the History of the African Diaspora Documents, Liberated Africans, Yoruba Diaspora, Equiano’s World, Baquaqua Project.

The Yale Slavery and Abolition Portal provides an instrument to help researchers and students find primary sources related to slavery and abolition within the university’s many libraries and galleries. The website is easily searchable and includes also a detailed listing of external databases.

Yoruba Diaspora is a Cartographically Based Interactive Digital Archive (CBIDA), which hosts a series of annual maps that operates on a temporal scale (1816-1838) and hosts archival materials concerning historical developments in the Oyo Empire, which was the largest slave trading state in West Africa. The project is led by Henry Lovejoy, who has compiled geo-referenced data that are aligned with slave voyages to visualize the process whereby inland conflict became a source of captives who boarded slave ships destined for the Americas. The interactive maps will be further developed in the future and new functions (such as zoom) will be added.

Digital Projects in Progress

This website is a work-in-progress by Laurent Dubois (Duke University), David Garner (University of South Carolina), and Mary Caton Lingold (Virginia Commonwealth University). Their goal is to showcase their research on the history of the banjo in the Afro-Atlantic world, including historical documents, visual materials, material objects, and musical transcription and analysis. They focus particularly on Haiti and Louisiana, but also provide information from other areas along with the transcriptions of a wide range of banjo music. The visitors will be able to explore and comment on sources relating to the banjo’s fascinating history. The website was originally created as the basis for events taking place at Tulane University on April 21-22, 2013 around the theme of “The Banjo and the African Diaspora.”

Voices of the Enslaved is a digital humanities project that is carried by Sophie White, Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame (USA). White is interested in expanding and rethinking the established canon of slave narratives in the Americas, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. Hearing Slaves Speak : A Multimedia Database of Voices of the Voiceless will be hosted on the Omohundro Institute's OI Reader platform and will feature edited transcriptions and translations of slaves’ courtroom testimony, aimed at both a scholarly and public audience. This project is under contract, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

The Centre for Research on Slavery and Indenture is a multidisciplinary Research Centre based at the University of Mauritius. In its research the CRS focuses on the history of slavery in Mauritius and the associated migration movements by pursuing an interdisciplinary approach, which brings together researchers from the fields of ethnography, archaeology, oral history, genealogy and family history. The Website is still in the process of being set up, but in future it aims to provide a series of databases relating to slave trade and indentured immigration in Mauritius.

Setting up an international research network dedicated to the legacy of slavery in Africa and Europe : such is the purpose of the SLAFNET research project coordinated by the IRD. Funded by the European Commission, it brings together a multidisciplinary team of some 50 researchers in a consortium of 13 partners from the North and South. One of the objectives is to conduct an inventory of the accumulated scientific capital that exists in the various slavery databases in which members of Slafnet have been involved in the past decade. A Slafnet’s website is in progress.


Landers Jane, Le Glaunec Jean-Pierre, Lovejoy Henry, Lovejoy Paul (dir). 2020. « Inscrire l’esclavage dans les humanités numériques. Embedding Slavery in Digital Humanities », Esclavages & Post-esclavages [En ligne], 3, mis en ligne le 27 novembre 2020, consulté le 04 octobre 2021.

This issue belongs to this digital wave that is sweeping over the history of slaveries in modern times and proposes, at a heuristic level, pathways towards a means of understanding appropriate for a ‘digital creasing of the world’—that is to say using the digital humanities to raise the surface of what was traditionally smoothed over by the sources. It is, we believe, likely to bring those researching the world of slaves and their audiences closer together.

Digital Publishing

Simon P. Newman. Hidden in Plain Sight: Escaped Slaves in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Jamaica. Artwork by Anthony King, maps by David Ely, and video and photography by Marenka Thompson-Odlum.

Employing sound and video recordings as well as enhanced eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artwork and maps, all in digital format, this article will challenge readers to think about Jamaican society in new ways. It will explore how white men saw and experienced the island and its population in order to enhance our understanding of how enslaved men, women, and children who attempted long-term escapes were able to achieve varying degrees of liberty and self-determination at the heart of Britain’s largest slave society. 


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