As part of Citizen Science Month 2023, we’re sharing excerpts from ‘Into the Zooniverse’, a series of books celebrating the projects and people of the Zooniverse.

You can find and download all editions of ‘Into the Zooniverse’ here.

Agents of Enslavement

The practice of slavery in the Caribbean was widespread. Agents of Enslavement, a project led by the Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library, seeks to understand the ways the media of the time both facilitated and challenged slavery. Newspaper records, once in danger of being permanently lost due to nearly two centuries of storage in a tropical climate, have now been digitized. The project asks volunteers to categorize each snippet and transcribe names, occupations, and other details from the various types of articles.

Each record contains the potential to reveal important information about identities, personalities, and familial relationships of enslaved people. Some of the records contain only anonymous information about the enslaved people, and these will help researchers understand the ways that newspapers enabled the slave trade on these islands. Other records are far more informative — particularly the announcements of runaways. Enslavers often provided rich detail on runaways in hopes this would lead to their return, and these disclosures record the uniqueness of each enslaved person.  

The researchers in the project aim to create a public database of enslaved people, most of whom have been previously hidden from history.  The researchers hope the database will map family and other connections between enslaved people, which will help geneologists and other academics in their research, and may help the descendants of enslaved people more fully trace their own family histories. 

Image credit: Agents of Enslavement, The British Library

Summary by: Brooke Simmons

Check out this project: here

View the full ‘Into the Zooniverse’ book: here