About the Digital Library on American Slavery
The Digital Library on American Slavery (DLAS) is an expanding resource compiling independent collections focused upon race and slavery in the American South, made searchable through a single, simple interface. DLAS houses tens of thousands of records relating to all 15 slave states and Washington, D.C. as well as a number of northern states. DLAS contains detailed personal information about over 100 thousand individuals, including enslaved people, enslavers, free people of color, and more.
The goal of the Digital Library on American Slavery is to bring together and make freely accessible public records related to enslavement, with an emphasis upon the names and stories of the enslaved. DLAS strives to be a documentation project, not an interpretive effort. The team works with researchers to make data sets available for personal research.
Each project housed within DLAS includes a data dictionary and user guide tailored to that data set or type of record. A detailed history of each project is also available.
Included documents and datasets
- Court petitions (The Race and Slavery Petitions Project)
- The Race and Slavery Petitions Project offers data extracted from eighteenth and nineteenth-century documents and processed over a period of eighteen years. The project contains detailed information on about 150,000 individuals extracted from 2,975 legislative petitions and 14,512 county court petitions, as well as from a wide range of related documents, including wills, inventories, deeds, bills of sale, depositions, court proceedings, and amended petitions among others. Buried in these documents are the names and other data on roughly 80,000 enslaved people, 8,000 free people of color, and 62,000 whites, both enslavers and not.
- Runaway slave notices (The N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisements Project)
- This project provides online access to all known runaway slave advertisements (more than 5000 items) published in North Carolina newspapers from 1751 to 1865. These brief ads provide a glimpse into the social, economic, and cultural world of the American slave system and the specific experience within North Carolina. The project includes digital images, full-text transcripts, and descriptive metadata, as well as contextual essays and an annotated bibliography.
- Slave deeds (People Not Property)
- People Not Property is a unique, centralized database of bills of sales from across over 20 North Carolina counties. The project indexes the names of enslaved people from across the state, and includes robust metadata, images, and searchable indexes. This is an ongoing effort, and the project will continue to expand to other counties across North Carolina as well as into other states and districts.
The Digital Library on American Slavery also includes data from outside projects not a part of DLAS proper nor maintained by the DLAS team nor UNCG. This information has been harvested with permission, and you are encouraged to contact partners directly for assistance.
- Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
- Voyages is the culmination of several decades of independent and collaborative research by scholars drawing upon data in libraries and archives around the Atlantic world. The National Endowment for the Humanities is the principal sponsor of the project, and it is an Emory University Digital Library Research Initiative. We've included 34946 voyages from the project, including 86,689 names of the enslaved and 34,551 captain names.
- Slavery Era Insurance Registry of California
- On September 30, 2000 Governor Gray Davis of California signed two bills relating to slave insurance, with other states later following suit. Included here are 670 distinct records as made available by the California Department of Insurance. The California web site makes available four different reports; Slavery Era, Slave Names, Slaveholder Names and New York Life Cancelled Policies Reports.
- Richard Cox
- Digital Technology Consultant
- DLAS project manager
- David Gwynn
- Digitization Coordinator
- Slave Notices Project manager
- Daniel Nanez
- Web Applications Developer & Database administration
- Dr. Brian Robinson
- CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for African-American Studies
- Claire Heckel
- People Not Property Project Coordinator
Funding sources & recognitions
In 2022 the Digital Library on American Slavery was awarded a $99,915 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to expand the People Not Property project into four additional North Carolina counties.
The Digital Library on American Slavery received a 2021 American Council of Learned Societies Digital Extension Grant. This collaborative, community-engaged research project leverages the infrastructure and expertise of the Digital Library on American Slavery (DLAS), with the goal being to expand ongoing digital research to three additional public universities in North Carolina (ECU, NCCU, UNCP) through a set of interrelated research projects that engage and empower local communities while fostering collaboration among scholars at diverse stages of their professional development.
In 2020, the Digital Library on American Slavery was recognized as as the first-ever "virtual" stop on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, operated by the National Park Service. The Network to Freedom program consists of locations with a verifiable connection to the Underground Railroad; educational and interpretive programs that pertain to the Underground Railroad; and research and educational facilities. There are over 600 locations across 40 states, plus Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Also in 2020, the Digital Library on American Slavery and UNCG became the host of a Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for African American and African Studies. We were very fortunate that Dr. Brian A. Robinson accepted the opportunity. Dr. Robinson earned his Ph.D. in American History from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. He works with the DLAS team to develop web-based content for engaging with and training teachers to use the Digital Library on American Slavery, and focuses on data manipulation and visualization, text mining, and GIS applications that enhance the historical record and increase the visibility and discoverability of DLAS.
The first phase of the People Not Property slave deeds project was funded in 2018 through a three-year, $294,603 grant from the National Archives' National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize nearly 10,000 North Carolina slave deeds and bills of sale, create a comprehensive database for the digitized records, and provide detailed metadata of these documents.
Phase One of the N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisements collaborative project between the University Libraries of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the F.D. Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University was made possible through funding from the federal Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina. Phase Two was initiated with the assistance of a Strategic Seed Grant awarded by the UNCG Office of Research and Engagement and is now supported completely by the UNC Greensboro University Libraries.
The creation of the Digital Library on American Slavery was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2009, and was designated a We The People project. Previous funding for the Race and Slavery Petitions Project was provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives [NHPRC] (1991-2005), the National Endowment for the Humanities [NEH] (1995-2009), and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (1997-2005).
Media & selected presentations, 2018-present
- Conversations with Kenyatta: A Conversation with Richard Cox (48:54; March 9, 2022)
- Finding Your Roots/ N.C. African American Genealogy Panel (49:07; PBS NC; January 12, 2022)
- New website is a good source for information on all things DNA (Atlanta Journal-Constitution; December 3, 2021)
- Buncombe County's slave deeds project spawns statewide database with over 50,000 names (ABC 13 News; October 22, 2021)
- 2021 North Carolina Library Association Presentation (49:19; October 20, 2021)
- NC County Deed Books Help Build Database Of Enslaved People (WFAE; September 6, 2021)
- 'They were people': A unique project aims to tell the stories of N.C.'s enslaved people (Greensboro News & Record; August 30, 2021)
- Unlocking stories of slavery, Wake County Register of Deeds and Shaw research history of enslaved people locally (WRAL; August 26, 2021)
- UNCG Receives Grant to Expand Digital Library on American Slavery (UNCG News; May 25, 2021)
- The First "Virtual Stop" on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education; March 11, 2020)
- NC's Slave Deeds Tell Stories Of 'People, Not Property' (WUNC The State Of Things; March 10, 2020)
- Once a Plantation, Stagville Helps Families Find Enslaved Ancestors (IndyWeek; Feb 26, 2020)
- 'The Slave Deeds of Guilford County': New video series focuses on community's past (Greensboro News & Record; Feb 20, 2020)
- 'People Not Property' Aims to Create Statewide Database of Slave Deeds in North Carolina (Next City; Jan 22, 2020)
- University researchers to digitize Beaufort County slave deeds, local volunteers welcome (Washington Daily News; Aug 05, 2019)
- Elon Law to assist with 'People Not Property' project (Elon University; June 26, 2019)
- Researchers helping people find ancestors, learn history of families (Fox 8 News; Sep 26, 2018)
- UNCG Slave Name Database Ensures The Past Is Not Forgotten (WUNC The State Of Things; Aug 21, 2018)
- Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Aim to Preserve Slave Records (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education; August 06, 2018)
- UNCG libraries working to compile slave deeds from North Carolina counties (Spectrum News; August 01, 2018)
- Documenting slavery (Greensboro News & Record; July 30, 2018)
- UNCG To Digitize Slave Deed Records From Across The State (WFMY News 2; July 28, 2018)
- UNCG To Digitize Slave Deeds (NPR; July 26, 2018)
- Grant to help digitize North Carolina slave records (Chicago Tribune; July 23, 2018)
- Grant backs project to digitally preserve slave deeds across North Carolina (Asheville Citizen Times; July 23, 2018)