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MSU’s Enslaved.org, a database chronicling the lives of enslaved people, awarded $1.4 million grant

Posted at 4:26 PM, Apr 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-11 16:26:18-04

MSU CAMPUS — Michigan State University researchers are working to expand an archive that uncovers the lost history of enslaved people in the U.S.

“What this project does is to focus on individuals who have been largely written out of history,” said MSU history professor Walter Hawthorne.

Enslaved.org, a database that chronicles the lives of enslaved people, was awarded a $1.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation.

MSU researchers developed the project in partnership with universities and scholars across the country.

“It’s long thought that we didn’t have records to study slavery in the Atlantic Slave Trade from the perspective of individuals who were enslaved, but increasingly we’re discovering that that’s simply not the case,” Hawthorne said.

Plantation inventories, runaway slave ads, and other records on nearly 1 million enslaved people have been cataloged on the site.

Jamie Monson, director of MSU's African Studies Center, says Enslaved.org is a unique data set.

“For the first time, a very large aggregation of data has been pulled together," she said. "What’s so beautiful about it is it’s being done in a way to be used by so many different kinds of people. It's open access."

The Mellon Foundation also funded the two early phases of Enslaved.org. Hawthorne says this third phase will give his team access to wider data sets to help find more historical ties to Michigan.

The website will also create a fellows program for graduate and postdoctoral students from underrepresented groups to conduct similar research.

“We are making known these individuals who labored in the Americas, who suffered in the Americas, who were brought to the Americas from the other side of the Atlantic and who really contributed to the world that we live in today,” Hawthorne said.

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