The way we study the slave trade will never be the same again.

Michigan State Univerisity has received a hefty $1.47 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant that will be used to create an online database that connects databases from other American and international universities. 

“Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade” features the work from other major universities including Emory University, Vanderbilt University, Harvard University, York University, University College, London, University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Maryland.

As part of the first phase of the multistage plan, it will take 18 months to get the database up and running and connected to the eight other databases. 

“’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, 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.”

When completed, the website will allow people to search millions of available data on the slave trade and slavery in general. Users can also identify enslaved individuals and their descendants from a central source. Not only can the data be used for research purposes, it can be used to create maps, charts and graphics.

“We and our partners value the support of the Mellon Foundation,”  Director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU Dean Rehberger said. “In bringing together data from a number of highly successful projects, we have the opportunity from many small threads of data to weave together lives of enslaved individuals once thought lost to history.”

The stories of millions of individuals stolen from West Africa and forced to labor in the new world will never be forgotten. This project ensures that.