The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) has just announced a new digital exhibit created and curated by the ASERL Special Collections Interest Group. This collaborative online exhibit recognizes the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans sold into bondage in the English Colonies and includes paper documents and records as well as images. These provide valuable information about the entire infrastructure and system of enslavement as well as the individual and group experiences of enslaved people. Items submitted include photos, letters, bills of sale, emancipation documents, insurance and taxation documents, and maps indicating segregation zones. The exhibit also explores the legacies of slavery by including documents and images related to convict lease labor and Jim Crow in the 20th century.

However, there are also other historical databases and resources available for anyone interested in researching this topic. A short descriptive bibliography follows below, and if you know of other resources, please do not hesitate to let me know at

Database Projects:

Digital Library on American Slavery (UNCG):

Created by our UNCG colleagues, the database research categories include the Race and Slavery Petitions Project; NC Runaway Slave Advertisements; Slave Deeds of North Carolina; and Slavery Era Insurance Registries.

Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade:

This site was established by Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University and supported by the Mellon Foundation, in partnership with the MSU Department of History and scholars at multiple institutions. The resource consists of peer-reviewed datasets which focus on the individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in slave trading.

Freedom on the Move (Cornell University):

This database collection of newspaper advertisements documents the many fugitives from American slavery as they made their way to freedom. Currently numbering 22,236 advertisements contributed by 4,927 contributors, you do need to register to use this site.

Life and Labor under Slavery: the Jesuit Plantation Project:

This project, created and designed by Dr. Sharon Leon (Michigan State University Associate Professor and creator of OMEKA), focuses on those individuals who were sold by the Georgetown University Jesuits to slaveholders in the Deep South. As noted in the introduction “in processing and representing this archival research, the project employs linked open data and social network analysis to assess the entire community of enslaved people and their relationships to one another across space and time.”

Slave Voyages (Emory University):

This database provides access to 36,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866 between Africa and the Americas.

International Organizations:

UNESCO Slave Route Project:

Launched in 1994 in Ouidah, Benin, on a proposal from Haiti, “the Slave Route project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage” pursues the following objectives:

  • Contribute to a better understanding of the causes, forms of operation, stakes and consequences of slavery in the world (Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Asia);
  • Highlight the global transformations and cultural interactions that have resulted from this history;
  • Contribute to a culture of peace by promoting reflection on cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenships

University Projects

The Georgetown Slavery Archive:

The Georgetown Slavery Archive is a repository of materials relating to the Maryland Jesuits, Georgetown University, and slavery. This project was initiated in February 2016 by the Archives Subgroup of the Georgetown University Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation and is part of Georgetown University’s Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation initiative. There is also an excellent bibliography for further reading.

The Penn & Slavery Project:

The web site documents the discovery of the numerous ways in which the university relied on and contributed to the institution of slavery in North America and in the Caribbean. This research has identified slave-holding 18th Century trustees and faculty members, university fundraising efforts which focused on raising money from enslavers, traces of the institution of slavery on  Penn’s campus, and the role Penn’s medical school played, certifying doctors trained in “plantation medicine.”