Back to Africa

By Bennefield, Robin | The Crisis, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Back to Africa


Bennefield, Robin, The Crisis


[HISTORY]

A project at Emory University traces the ancestry of enslaved Africans.

More than 100 years after the publication of W.E.B. DuBois' first book, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870, a new online database may uncover the exact origins of Africans bound for slavery in the Americas.

A team of researchers at Emory University launched the African Origins website (www.african-origins.org) in April with the hope of tracing the ancestry of more than 100,000 Africans forced into the transAtlantic slave trade. The goal is to provide a complete picture of the impact of the slave trade on the African continent.

"This will allow us to create a profile of the slave trade from the interior," said David EItis, lead researcher. "We want to fit this information into African history and create a geography and a time profile that can fit with known events in African history."

The project is driven by the discovery of detailed records kept by international maritime courts seeking to suppress slavery in the 19th century. Courts in Havana, Cuba and Freetown, Sierra Leone, freed slaves from intercepted slave ships, noting their African names, age, gender and port of embarkation.

Before now, there has been no record of the original names of these slaves, according to Eltis. By the time slaves reached the new world they became a number or their names had already been changed.

The African Origins site lists the names of nearly 10,000 Africans spelled phonetically as found in court records created by Spanish or English speakers. …

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