POST: Using Data to Discover and Explore the Stories of Enslaved People

JSTOR Daily recently published a blogpost, “Using Data to Discover and Explore the Stories of Enslaved People.” Written by Daryle Williams (Professor of History and serves as Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) at the University of California, Riverside) and Kristina E. Poznan (Clinical Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland and Managing Editor of’s Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation), the post explores the range of resources available for studying the history of enslaved people via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade (

As the post points out,

Since the early modern era, Black and Indigenous slavery has been a recurrent, deeply unsettled subject of humanistic inquiry, across the disciplines of history, philosophy, letters, and the arts. While racial slavery has played the role of spectral scourge across the Western canon, racialized bondage often consigned actual enslaved Black and Indigenous persons to the margins of the written, visual, and sound record. Yet those silences were never complete and enslaved voices are to be found in the analog archive, book, image, and musical score.

Slavery as problem and as lived experience developed with print capitalism, humanistic scholarship, and the creative arts. Since the advent of humanities computing and the continual improvements in digital infrastructure that can accommodate the massive scale and scope of the historical archive, the study of Black and Indigenous bondage have also made significant inroads into information and data sciences in the academy as well as the private sector of online genealogy, genetic sequencing, and digital entertainment. From the punch cards of early computers to CDs to cloud storage, multimedia hardware and information processing applications power the storage, conservation, retrieval, duplication, and analysis of millions of documents and billions of data points about enslaved people, their conditions, and their voices—even if fragmented by racialized violence and its archival afterlives.

The post reflects on the growth of digital archival material available to researchers, and includes examples of some of those sources. The post includes links to resources that will be of use to digital humanities library professionals working on and/or teaching about the history of enslavement.

Source: Auto Draft

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between Kayla Abner, Tierney Gleason, Corinne Guimont, Lorena O'English, Soni Wadhwa (Editors-at-large for the week), Claudia Berger and Pamella Lach (Editors for the week), Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara, Linsey Ford, Hillary Richardson, John Russell, and Rachel Starry (dh+lib Review Editors).