By Scott Rappaport
On a typical day, over 1,000 visitors consult the website Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, one of the most utilized resources in the digital humanities.
Drawing on four decades of archival research on five continents, it offers free public access to the details of every documented slave-trading voyage that carried enslaved people from Africa to the Americas.
Now in its seventh year with 35,000 documented voyages to date, the site has become the basic reference tool for anyone who studies the transatlantic slave trade—including teachers, genealogists, scientists, and scholars.
The Voyages web site is, however, limited in one key area. It only includes slave-trading voyages that crossed the Atlantic Ocean. But recent research has shown that arrival in the New World from Africa did not always mark the end of a captive’s journey—approximately 25 percent of arriving Africans actually soon boarded another ship for distribution within the Americas.
A significant piece of that new research was conducted by UC Santa Cruz associate professor of history, Gregory O’Malley. His recent book documenting the intra-American slave trade, Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-1807, has received multiple awards for helping to redraw the map of the forced African immigration during the slave trade era.
Now with the help of a $220,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a project titled Final Passages: The Intra-American Slave Trade Database, O’Malley plans to add his research to the Voyages database.
The project will create an interactive, free Web-based database about the slave trade within the Americas and integrate it into the Voyages site.
“Part of this grant is to build a new interface to add to what we have, using the data I used to write my book,” said O’Malley. “I built a database on my laptop to write the book, and now we want to make it a public resource.”