Rice wins NEH grant to create digital database of Atlantic slave trade

Grant will further enhance Rice's reputation as a center for Africa and African diaspora studies, digital humanities

Associate professor of history Daniel Domingues
SlaveVoyages logo

A Rice history professor’s work to create a digital database of the Atlantic slave trade has won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Associate professor of history Daniel Domingues has been awarded $149,995 for his project with Lancaster University to develop the Digital Archive of the Atlantic Slave Trades. He’s one of 208 winners of $24.7 million in NEH grants this year.

This open-access resource will digitize, transcribe, translate and link manuscript materials documenting the South Sea Company and its contribution to the trans-Atlantic and intra-American slave trades. The NEH award will also allow all of this vital data to be linked to SlaveVoyages, the world’s largest repository of data on the slave trade, which is housed at Rice and overseen by Domingues.

Daniel Domingues
Associate professor of history Daniel Domingues

“This award represents a new era for the project, which will further enhance Rice University's reputation as a center for Africa and African diaspora studies and as an innovative center for the growing field of digital humanities,” Domingues said. “It will also open up new research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate studies in the schools of Humanities and Social Sciences.”

The project is co-funded by the U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which is contributing £250,000 (roughly $340,000) toward the database. Other research partners on Digital Archive of the Atlantic Slave Trades include the British Library, the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan and the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens.

Other NEH grants this year will support Oakwood University’s creation of a living history museum based on the life of Dred Scott; the digitization of 18th- and 19th-century North American climate and weather data, including daily meteorological observation records kept by Thomas Jefferson; the development of a digital archive of Cherokee manuscripts and lexical resources to facilitate collective translation and study of the Cherokee language; and the creation of a multimedia civics and history education gaming experience to teach middle and high school students about the history of the Supreme Court.

“These NEH grants will support educators and scholars in enriching our understanding of the past and enable cultural institutions from across the country to expand their offerings, resources and public programming, both in person and online,” said NEH acting chair Adam Wolfson. “We look forward to the many new insights and discoveries that these 208 exemplary projects will make possible.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

SlaveVoyages was first created at Emory University in 1999 as a series of CD-ROMs and transformed into a website in 2008. Considered the gold standard in digital humanities, the SlaveVoyages database and website transferred to Rice in 2021. A conference was held at Rice in December to officially recognize the formation of the SlaveVoyages Consortium: a group of universities including Rice and Emory dedicated to funding and maintaining the ever-growing site well into the future.