May 18, 2022

$1.4 Million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant Expands Research

From Michigan State University

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $1.4 million to Michigan State University for Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade, or, a first-of-its-kind database containing millions of records cataloging the lives of enslaved Africans and their descendants., developed and maintained by MSU researchers, links data collections from multiple universities, archives, museums and family history centers. The Mellon Foundation funded the initial two phases of – the first beginning in 2018 and the second in 2020 – which provided support for both proof-of-concept and implementation.

The third phase of funding will run through March 2023 and will expand the reach of the project by refining infrastructure; driving sustainability; strengthening a commitment to the inclusion of underrepresented voices in humanities scholarship; and continuing partnerships with scholars, heritage and cultural organizations and the public.


“Historians, archivists, librarians, genealogists, data scientists and the general public have shown an immense interest in the data that is available on an open-access platform optimized to handle billions of pieces of data in a flexible and open-source manner,” said Walter Hawthorne, project co-investigator, professor of African history, and associate dean of academic and student affairs in MSU’s College of Social Science. “While we continue to digitize records, such as those that are handwritten, to preserve them, we know there is more to each person’s story,” he said.

The project team will expand its venture by refining the data infrastructure, publishing both more datasets and narrative stories, and introducing new features for data visualizations.

Learn More, Read the Complete Announcement

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See Also: Research Tools: “Who Were America’s Enslaved? A New Database Humanizes the Names Behind the Numbers” (December 11, 2020)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.