Culture

This project is attempting to trace the origins of enslaved ancestors

One of the most comprehensive websites on slavery is set to get a much-needed database boost.

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Scholars at Michigan State University, University of Maryland, and other institutions have tirelessly worked at creating a database that could help the descendants of formerly enslaved people find their roots. Titled "Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade," the collective group of scholars run the website known as Enslaved.org and now, according to a report first published by Axios, Enslaved.org is set to receive a huge expansion in data and information through crowdsourcing.

The database essentially reconstructs timelines and stories between the 1600s and 1800s, primarily dealing with slave trades related to the United States and other countries. If you're interested in submitting relevant information regarding the histories of formerly enslaved individuals, the creators behind Enslaved.org have encouraged people to submit what they know (such as advertisements from the time or official papers signifying slave-trade transaction) to its archive.

Verification is crucial here. According to the project manager of the database, Catherine Foley, the review of the information provided will take place at two levels, Axios reported. Right now, if you go to Enslaved.org, users are able to type surnames, the title of events, and the locations they might know in order to learn more about those who conducted the horrific trade and those who were affected by it. The creators behind the website note that the expansion of the project is set to beyond 2021.

Background — With the mushrooming of websites like Ancestry.com, numerous denizens have sought to find out more about their heritage ancestries and even predilection for certain diseases. Of course, there are ethical questions around the amount of data collected and to what end these websites use that delicate and private information. But the primordial hunger to know more about oneself remains ever consistent — even with repeated warnings about hacking, security breaches, and other transgressions that compromise the privacy of such material. Perhaps anticipating questions around privacy, Enslaved.org already notes that the data found its in system will be published in the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation.

This data also includes descriptions of an individual, metadata, copyright information, and more for "multiple" audiences. So far, the website's information has been published in and used by projects like the Biographies of the Enslaved, Contested Freedom, Free Black Database, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership, Louisiana Slave Database, and other scholarly publications. Amid ongoing racial tensions around the subjects of police brutality and racial inequality, Enslaved.org is doing critical and delicate work. "The records," Foley emphasized to Axios, "will tell the story."