Today’s Solutions: December 02, 2021

While we know the dark history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the number of Africans forcibly taken from their homes, we hardly know anything about the lives of individual slaves. Only a few historical enslaved people are known by name, and most are lost to history.

In a colossal effort to reveal the names and stories behind the lives of the enslaved, a massive, open-source database is being created by a team of academics and members of the public in order to reconstruct and document the lives of slaves in America. Located on the website, the database includes nearly 500,000 records of people and 5 million data points, all of which can be explored by events (like voyage or sale), places, and people’s age, gender, and other details.

The database includes records from archives that were either not digitized or widely accessible, and the search function allows anyone to search for this information about slaves in the Americas through one centralized database—something that has never been possible before. It also features a section for data visuals where users can create their own charts and graphs based on different details.

The idea is that by amassing all these details into a single database, scholarship on slavery can focus more on creating a story about the lives of the enslaved rather than talking about slavery in terms of generalities.

“Within the broader field of slave studies or diaspora studies or Black studies, it’s saying their name and doing biographies which talk about the lives, as fragmented as [the records] may have been through the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery itself,” says Daryle Williams, project coinvestigator and University of Maryland history professor. “Then it’s also about…taking those lives and those people and putting them into family trees and genealogies, whether it’s your own genealogy or the families and lives of a certain region. We’re definitely interested in meeting that need, that hunger, which is out there.”

Fast Company reports that the searchable database was created by Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University, in partnership with the MSU Department of History, the University of Maryland, and scholars from a number of different institutions.

There are still a lot of unknowns and unnamed people when it comes to piecing together this dark history, but with the help of more academics and members of the public who can submit their own family histories or documents, the database is expected to grow into the most complex and comprehensive historical account of slavery that has ever existed.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Online mushroom hotline puts the power of crowdsourcing in poison control

Ninety nine percent of mushrooms are non-toxic, but the one percent which are can have fatal consequences if accidentally ingested. For people with pets or young children, a seemingly harmless patch of fungi in the ... Read More

30 White rhinos make record journey to Akagera national park

White rhinos are classified as near threatened, with numbers dropping due to poaching. In a bid to improve the outlook for the species, 30 of these giant animals recently made the journey from South Africa ... Read More

This cutting edge camera is the size of a grain of salt

Micro-cameras are used in virtually all industries. In the medical field, these tiny cameras have helped facilitate less invasive medical imaging practices and improved robotic surgical tools. Structures of molecules and neural pathways have been ... Read More

Research shows gestures take the guesswork out of learning a new language

It’s common knowledge that picking up a new language is easier as a child, while your brain is still flexible—but learning a foreign tongue as an adult is another story. Well, according to new research, ... Read More

This impact-absorbing technology will save lives (and traffic poles)

Crashing a vehicle is already a traumatizing and possibly fatal accident, but if the object that the vehicle collides into is a rigid street light pole that snaps off its base due to the impact, ... Read More

New York City opens the country’s first safe injection site

Harm reduction strategies are gaining traction as a more effective way to quell the ever-growing opioid crisis. These strategies, like making clean needle exchanges available and decriminalizing drug possession, understand that criminalization alone will not ... Read More