The team behind Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade (Enslaved.org; https://enslaved.org) and the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation (https://jsdp.enslaved.org), which are projects at Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Science at Michigan State University, is honored to have received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a four week summer institute (half in person and half virtual) for higher education faculty and graduate students on the topic of data-informed, Internet-based methods in slavery studies. We look forward to hosting a diverse group of institute participants in East Lansing, Michigan in Summer 2023!
Dr. Walter Hawthorne is a professor of African history at MSU and a scholar of trade in enslaved people between Africa and the Americas and the impact of the trade on decentralized societies in West Africa. He is a co-principal investigator for Enslaved.org and was a founder of Slave Biographies, the precursor to Enslaved.org. Dr. Hawthorne's research has focused on digital humanities methods, practices, and ethics, as well as on African agricultural practices, religious beliefs, and family structures in the Old and New Worlds. Dr. Hawthorne's research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright Foundation, and British Library Endangered Archive Programme.
Dr. Kristina Poznan is a clinical assistant professor history at the University of Maryland and managing editor of Enslaved.org's Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation. Poznan is a digital and public historian engaged in leading experiential programs. She spent a decade with the National Institute of American History & Democracy's Pre-College Summer Program, directed the Cross-Cultural Collaboration, hosted two Omohundro Institute Coffeehouse tables (one related to Enslaved.org), and managed two summers of the Big Ten Academic Alliance Summer Research Opportunity Programs.
Dr. Dean Rehberger is an associate professor of history and the Director of Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Science at Michigan State University. There he has overseen numerous digitization and archival, application design and development, and data and computational processing projects including Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade, What America Ate, The Vietnam Group Project, Oral History in the Digital Age, and Overcoming Apartheid. He is principal investigator on Enslaved.org and has run numerous faculty technology and workshops and given presentations for educators and cultural heritage workers from local, national and international audiences.
Dr. Daryle Williams is a professor of history and dean of the Colleges of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at University of California, Riverside. He is a co-principal investigator on Ensalved,org. His research focuses on the history of slavery in Latin America and the special legal status of Liberated Africans, still enslaved but to-be-emancipated, in Brazil. His current book project is "The Broken Paths of Freedom: Liberated Africans in Nineteenth-Century Brazilian Slave Society." Williams has held grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship Program, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities.
Catherine Foley is the digital librarian at MSU's Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Science and co-manager of Enslaved.org. Foley has been instrumental in the creation of Enslaved.org's controlled vocabulary and ontology and in the preparation of its ethics statement and statement of best practices for database projects examining the lives of enslaved individuals. On SlaverBiographes, the precursor to Enslaved.org, she started this work with Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall. She further developed it under a grant from the Mellon Foundation for Enslaved.org.
Dr. Sharon Leon is an associate professor of history and director of digital public history at Michigan State University. Leon spent over ten years at George Mason University's History Department and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media as Director of Public Projects and Director of the Omeka web publishing platform. Dr. Leon's research focuses on US Catholicism and digital methods with a focus on public history. She is currently engaged in an NEH digital publication fellowship analyzing community networks and the experiences of the cohort of people enslaved and sold by the Maryland Province Jesuits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Dr. Gregory O'Malley is an associate professor of history at University of California, Santa Cruz and an integral part of the team behind SlaveVoyages, which documents the trade in enslaved Africans from the continent across the Atlantic, and especially a section of it titled the Intra-American Slave Trade Database, which documents the trade of enslaved people within the Americas. O'Malley's scholarship centers on Colonial British America and the Caribbean, the Atlantic world, slavery, and the slave trade. O'Malley's work has been supported by ACLS, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the John Carter Brown Library, among other sources.
Alicia Sheill has over fifteen years of project management experience that includes leading the National Endowment for Humanities funded project What America Ate, The Mellon Foundation funded Public Philosophy Journal, the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research funded project Liberated Africans, and The Quilt Index. She co-manages Enslaved.org and has experience with metadata standards, semantic technologies, and ontology development knowledge graphs, and data standardization and integration into Wikibase and KORA, the online digital repository application for complex multimedia objects created by Matrix.
All participants will be engaged in the creation of datasets related to the history of slavery during the four weeks of the institute. We hope that the every participant will choose to submit their dataset, upon its completion, to the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation for peer review and possible publication. A portion of the workshop will be dedicated to instructions on best practices for producing datasets, which is a focus of the Enslaved.org project.
Enslaved.org's nascent "For Educators" page stands to benefit tremendously from the ideas, creativity, and work of institute participants. In what we hope will be an organic outgrowth of conversations at the institute, individual or small clusters of contributors may want to formally write up and share a lesson with readers; similarly, the directors are open to collaborating with participants on preparing such lessons for colleagues based on the conversations we have together at the institute.
The institute will explore the opportunities and challenges of engaging in data-informed, Internet-based humanistic research and public scholarship as it applies to the study of enslaved people of African descent.
The institute organizers are researchers on Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade (Enslaved.org; https://enslaved.org) Launched in 2019 and funded by donors; Michigan State University; University of California, Riverside; University of Maryland; and the National Endowment for the Humanities; and Mellon Foundation, Enslaved.org is a scholarly website housed at Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at MSU. The platform publishes datasets that contributors construct by extracting data from a great range of primary sources. Each dataset is concerned with identifying people of African descent who were enslaved in any part of the world before state-legislated abolition. Among the sources contributors have consulted are books of marriages and baptisms, runaway advertisements, inventories, wills, sales records, arrest records, court cases, and coroners' reports. The intake for the project is an online journal, the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation. After a peer- or editorial-review process, contributors' datasets and data articles (short essays that contextualize the data) are made available in open-source format at https://jsdp.enslaved.org/. They are housed on Matrix servers and copies are preserved in Dataverse at Harvard University. Some contributors already have websites on their university servers. For these contributors, Enslaved.org pursues the same review process. If reviews are positive, Enslaved.org will publish the data article, store the data as a backup, and link to the contributor's website. Whether or not they have their own website, each contributor is expected to submit a dataset (spreadsheet) in which each line has information about a person and each column or field has information about a characteristic, such as name, age, sex, ethnolinguistic indicator, location, children, skills, injuries, and enslaver name. The nature of the primary sources determines what fields are contained in a dataset. On the Enslaved.org platform, a technology called linked open data allows users to search over, aggregate, and analyze datasets' contents. Users may also download datasets in a variety of formats for analyses on their computers. Among other things, the project offers an ethics statement, controlled vocabulary, and information about best practices for dataset construction.
The research team at Enslaved.org is excited about this NEH institute because it embraces the opportunity to share what it has learned from engagement with the project while learning from others with experiences at an array of institutions of higher education and expertise in a range of disciplinary approaches to the humanities. Enslaved.org is not the only data-informed, Internet-based project exploring the lives of enslaved people of African descent. There are many others including and not limited to SlaveVoyages (https://www.slavevoyages.org/), Slave Societies Digital Archive (https://www.slavesocieties.info/), Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery (https://informationwanted.org/), Legacies of British Slavery (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/), and Freedom on the Move (https://freedomonthemove.org/). At the workshop, we will explore these and other projects and have principal investigators from a variety of research teams available to share their expertise and experiences. In addition, the workshop will feature leading scholars who study the history of slavery, public historians who engage with slavery in museums and at sites of memory, archivists who are responsible for preserving and cataloging digital materials, genealogical researchers who serve an audience professional historians don't always consider, and data scientists, website designers, and programmers who are indispensable to data-informed, Internet-based history projects.
NEH Seminars, Institutes, and Landmarks programs are intended to extend and deepen knowledge and understanding of the humanities by focusing on significant topics, texts, and issues; contribute to the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; and foster a community of inquiry that provides models of excellence in scholarship and teaching.
NEH expects that project directors will take responsibility for encouraging an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse.
Seminar, Institute, and Landmarks presentations and discussions should be:
NEH welcomes comments, concerns, or suggestions on these principles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please email all inquiries, including questions about submissions, to Enslaved.email@example.com.
To stay up to date with announcements, consider joining the Enslaved.org NEH Summer Institute announcement list, and following us on Twitter (@EnslavedOrg). You are also welcome to join our social network on LinkedIn.