Building a Database of all Enslaved Africans in the Americas
They fled in secrecy, their names unspoken to avoid capture by slave bounty hunters. Seeking asylum from slavery, they travelled the Underground Railway to Canada by the thousands where, safe at last, they could speak their names. Now, 150 years later, Dr. Paul Lovejoy, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History, is making sure those names, and the stories they carry, are not forgotten.
Lovejoy’s renewed appointment as Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History recognizes him as a world-leading scholar in the study of slavery. For the past 40 years, Lovejoy has explored the dynamics of the African Diaspora. His award-winning book, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (1983, 2000) is a classic text on the subject.
What is striking about Lovejoy's current research is the enormous breadth and depth of its detail. In conjunction with dozens of international colleagues, he is creating a database of biographical information on all enslaved Africans in the Americas. This commitment to the past is inspired not only by intellectual passion, but by a personal history and association—Lovejoy's ancestors have a connection with the fight against slavery in the United States and the Underground Railway to Canada.
The construction of a digital archive is a daunting organizational task, but will provide researchers with an unbelievable wealth of detailed information from which to explore broad themes of global history.
Lovejoy’s research is an outgrowth of the York/UNESCO Nigerian Hinterland Project and the university’s establishment of the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples. The institute, which was opened by the Governor General in 2007, coordinates international research by 50 scholars on the African Diaspora in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and North America. As a reappointed Canada Research Chair, Lovejoy will continue to coordinate an international team of scholars in documenting the role of African migration in the development of the modern world. His focus on transatlantic connections that fuelled the slave trade has great relevance for Canada, not only because of the fight against slavery, but also because slavery has held significance in our country that has often been ignored.