Michigan State University Receives Almost $1,500,000 to Create Online Slavery Database

A pair of slave shackles in the Slavery and Freedom Gallery in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the press preview Sept. 14, 2016 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Michigan State University will receive nearly $1.5 million to create a new online database that will allow folks to navigate the records of millions of enslaved people and their descendants, a boon for historians and African Americans who are interested in knowing more about their ancestry.

Michigan State recently announced a $1.47 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will facilitate the project, “Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade,” an online hub that links data collections from multiple universities on slavery and enslaved people.


According to MSU Today: “By linking data collections from multiple universities, the website will allow people to search millions of pieces of slave data to identify enslaved individuals and their descendants from a central source. Users can also run analyses of enslaved populations and create maps, charts and graphics.”

“‘Enslaved’ brings new digital tools and analytical approaches to the study of African slavery and the Atlantic slave trade,” said project co-investigator Walter Hawthorne, a professor and chair of MSU’s department of history. “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.”

The “Enslaved” project is slated to take about 18 months and is the first phase of a multiphase plan. Given the surge of interest in DNA ancestry, driven by the popularity of sites such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe, this should be welcome news for those African Americans who have found it difficult to find out more about their ancestors before 1850 because, of course, the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Read more at MSU Today.

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Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.