New Website Aims to Preserve History of Slavery With Open-Source Ancestry Database

The story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a Navy captain and an enslaved woman of African origins, is just one of many that appears in the ancestry project.
The story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a Navy captain and an enslaved woman of African origins, is just one of many that appears in the ancestry project. (Enslaved.org)

A new effort of preserving the history of slavery in America is underway in the form of an online database, that invites Black Americans and researchers to submit their own family histories in order to reconstruct narratives that have been lost over time.

Enslaved.org, an open-platform access that launched earlier this week, is inviting anyone with stories or memorabilia, including runaway slave ads or documents of purchase, to submit to their website. From there, the material will undergo two levels of review to determine if it can be included, according to Axios.

Those interested in learning about themselves or their towns can search their own names or those of enslaved people to learn about voyages, timelines and name changes.

All of this is an effort to fill in the blanks on histories that have been lost over time, and preserve them online, in a format that is easier to search, so that the stories will be remembered by future generations, according to the website.

“[It] will revolutionize our access to the past lives and experiences of our enslaved ancestors more dramatically and more definitively than any other research project,” Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is a partner on the project, said, the Washington Post reported. Gates is also the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, as well as the host of the television series "Finding Your Roots" on PBS.

This comes as genealogy sites like Ancestry.com becomes more popular than ever – all while coming under criticism in the past for their blind spot when it comes to the history of Black Americans and other people of color.

“We cannot right the wrongs of the present without a fuller and deeper knowledge of the slave past, which is such an important part of American history, inextricably intertwined with the noble ideas embodied in our founding documents,” Gates said.

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