Watch Webinar about Globally-Recognized Database

February 25, 2021 - Becky Jensen

On Thursday February 25th the College of Social Science hosted a webinar for members of the Michigan State University community and beyond to learn more about the globally-recognized Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade project.

Watch the webinar here:

Moderated by Jessica Trotter with Capital Area District Libraries, lead researchers Dr. Walter Hawthorne, MSU Professor of History and Dr. Daryle Williams, Professor of History at the University of Maryland, gave in depth insight on the project and took questions from the audience. is a robust, open-source website that allows users to explore databases with information on over a million people who were subject to enslavement. From archival fragments and spreadsheet entries, the website offers a view of the lives of enslaved individuals.

The project, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, promises to give the general public the possibility to make discoveries about their own families’ pasts and scholars the possibility to undertake research that would have been unimaginable before the website’s launch. is housed at Matrix, MSU’s digital research center, and is managed by researchers at MSU and the University of Maryland. Matrix is led by Dean Rehberger, who is also a co-investigator on the project.

“Personal history is complex, much like the way data was collected during the slave trade era. While we continue to digitize records, such as those that are handwritten, to preserve them, we know there is more to each person’s story,” said Dr. Hawthorne, also the Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs in MSU’s College of Social Science. 

By welcoming ancestorial contributions from the public, the researchers hope to deepen the understanding, dignity and respect for the millions of people who were victim to the centuries-long slave trade.

“As the scholars at work to stitch together the life arcs of the enslaved across the globe, we turn to the general public to join us in discovery about families and communities formed from the crime of human bondage and the struggles of human freedom,” said Dr. Williams.