New Michigan State University Database Will Allow People To Research Records On Slavery

A new research project named “Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade,” created by Michigan State University, will help scholars through a set of tools learn about their enslaved ancestors, Smithsonian Mag reports.

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Reportedly, the university received a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help establish the online data hub. “By linking data compiled by some of the world’s foremost historians, it will allow scholars and the public to learn about individuals’ lives and to draw new, broad conclusions about processes that had an indelible impact on the world,” said Walter Hawthorne, professor, and chair of MSU’s history department.

With this new data service, users will be able to trace back to the 1800s during America’s period of slavery. Additionally, you’ll be able to create maps, charts and run an analysis of different enslaved populations around the world. In total, the project will take up to 18 months to complete.

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In addition to this new outlet, The Freedmen’s Bureau Project made 1.5 million historical documents available so that African-Americans can better trace their roots and ancestry. This was made available with a partnership with The Smithsonian and The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, among others.

Both of these projects are pivotal for the African-American community to be able to further understand its identity; considering how displaced and turbulent its history is. Author Ta-Nehisi Coates breaks this historical context and its fallen narrative of lost identity and family structure in The Atlantic.

“Over the next two centuries, the vast majority of the country’s blacks were robbed of their labor and subjected to constant and capricious violence. They were raped and whipped at the pleasure of their owners,” he explains of the effects of slavery. “Their families lived under the threat of existential violence—in just the four decades before the Civil War, more than 2 million African American slaves were bought and sold. Slavery did not mean merely coerced labor, sexual assault, and torture, but the constant threat of having a portion, or the whole, of your family consigned to oblivion. In all regards, slavery was war on the black family.”