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K-State Today

December 8, 2020

Computer science professor and postdoc partner launch online database on history of slavery

Submitted by Wynne Reichart

Pascal Hitzler, professor and Lloyd T. Smith creativity in engineering chair in the computer science department at Kansas State University, and his postdoc, Cogan Shimizu, have helped launch the online database Enslaved.org.

The database collects archives and entries documenting the lives of those who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in slave trading. The K-State team was in charge of developing the model for the database, which dictates how the data is organized and how Wikipedia-style browsing of the historical records is enabled.

"Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade" at https://enslaved.org/ was launched on Dec. 1 and is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Department of History, both at Michigan State University; University of Maryland; and multiple other scholars at various institutions plan to overcome the challenges of databases with five objectives for the site:

  • The people — focuses on recognition and identification.
  • Linked open data — facilitates federated searching and browsing across all linked project data, and supports preservation of current and future slave data projects.
  • Best practices and workflow — not yet agreed upon by scholars due to the rapid pace of online database projects.
  • Scholarly recognition — ensures quality of data.
  • Preservation and sustainability.

Further expansion to the site is planned for 2021. More information about the project can be found at enslaved.org/about.