The newly updated slavevoyages.org offers an interactive look at the practices of the trans-Atlantic and intra-American slave trade. The databases they provide are the result of decades of independent and collaborative research by scholars who drew information from libraries and archives around the world.
Featured on the new site is Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research, Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates is no stranger to genealogical investigation, as he tracks the roots of guests from all over the world on his popular PBS series, Finding Your Roots. The show weaves together guests’ stories utilizing cutting-edge DNA analysis and old school detective work.
The updated Slave Voyages site is the product of three years of dedicated work from a multi-disciplinary team of historians, librarians, curriculum specialists, cartographers, computer programmers, and web designers. Amsterdam News reports the team was consulted by scholars of the slave trade from universities in Europe, Africa, South America, and North America.
During the last 60 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, courts around the Atlantic decried the practice of slave trafficking and condemned nearly 2,000 vessels that had taken part in the illicit activities. It was in this time that details of captives found aboard these ships were recorded, along with many of their names. These records have allowed the new site to offer a unique, African name database.
Each name on the database provides more links to the ship they were held on, the route on which they were transported, and the location of their liberation. Links to the African Origins site also allow visitors to learn the proper pronunciations of African names, which can help identify the language and African region of the name’s origin.
The site also takes a close look at the slave trade within the Americas, called intra-American trafficking. Trafficking between states has received less attention than the trans-Atlantic routes, but there exist enough records to launch an Intra-American Slave Trade Database, which aims to document evidence of slave voyages throughout the New World.
Gates, who seems pleased by the launch of the new site after so long in development, told Amsterdam News:
“The site now offers access to details of more than 36,000 slave trading voyages between Africa and the New World; 11,000 voyages from one part of the Americas to another part; and 92,000 Africans who were forced to take the voyage,” Gates said. “Users can analyze data and view video and they can contribute corrections and add information on voyages the editors don’t even know about,”
According to the website, which considers itself a digital memorial, they intend to stimulate questions from visitors that can be answered by further exploration of their databases. It examines how European colonizers used Africa to form an enslaved workforce that could build cities and extract resources from the Americas. Those colonizers forced millions of mostly unnamed Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas, and from one part of the Americas to another.
Visitors to the website can analyze these slave trades with the assistance of interactive maps, timelines, and animations to see the dispersal of slaves throughout America.
“I find it inspiring that our fellow Americans are so determined to explore their own ancestral heritage,” Gates noted.