University joins digital initiative SlaveVoyages

Site's databases track 47,000 maritime voyages; chronicles personal details of 150,000 enslaved people

Washington University in St. Louis has joined SlaveVoyages, a collaborative digital initiative that compiles records related to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. William Acree, co-director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity (CRE²), says membership provides university faculty and students an opportunity to both benefit from and contribute to SlaveVoyages’ critical scholarship.

“SlaveVoyages is the world’s premier collection of databases and digital scholarship for the study of the slave trade,” said Acree, a professor of Spanish in Arts & Sciences. “This project is publicly accessible and has united scholars from around the world and has led to a greater understanding of the slave trade and enslavement.” 

Acree said researchers for the WashU & Slavery Project are learning more about the slave trade in and around St. Louis. Initiated in 2021 by CRE², the project is examining the university’s relationship with enslavement and the legacies of slavery and racial violence.

SlaveVoyages is the world’s premier collection of documents, maps and images related to the forced relocations of more than 12 million Africans.

“Our relationship with the SlaveVoyages project can help push this research further,” Acree said. “As the first member of the SlaveVoyages project in the Midwest, Washington University can bring together universities that are positioned throughout the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri river valleys to get a sense for what we know collectively about the availability of records on the river slave trade and to coordinate data collection, research and public history initiatives.”

The SlaveVoyages website features a trans-Atlantic slave trade database, which documents more than 36,000 voyages that transported enslaved Africans between 1514 and 1866; an intra-American slave trade database, which contains information on more than 11,000 maritime voyages within the Americas; and databases that provide personal details of some 150,000 enslaved people. The site features maps of shipping routes, 3D video reconstructions of slaving vessels and interactive graphics tracking the slave trade by year and by nation.

Institutional members are Emory, Harvard and Rice universities, the University of California, The University of the West Indies, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

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