Website Review

Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1718-1820

Gwendolyn Hall, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University

This site contains the Louisiana Slave Database and the Louisiana Free Database, with information on slaves and freed slaves living in Louisiana and parts of present-day Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida from 1718 to 1820. The Slave Database is searchable from the website; both databases can be downloaded. The data comes from records found by Dr. Gwendolyn Hall in 1984 in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, supplemented with information from French and Spanish archives at the University of Texas, Austin.

The Slave Database offers information on more than 100,000 slaves and the Free Database has records on more than 4,000 slave manumissions. Data include the names of slaves, freed slaves, slave owners, and information on slaves’ origins in Africa and elsewhere. Records also provide information on plantations; skills and occupations; family relationships; involvement in conspiracies; efforts at escape; and freedom from slavery.

One section offers the results of various searches done for African names, revolts, and runaways; another area offers calculations using both databases. This includes tables and graphs with information about name frequencies, prices of slaves, and African ethnicity, among other topics. Seven pages provide pieces of original documents in facsimile and transcription. Hall’s introduction describes how the databases were designed, how the data was entered, and how to use the databases.

Hall and her collaborators put a great deal of energy into making the databases accessible to researchers. Users can search the Louisiana Slave Database by slave’s name, master’s name, gender, time period, racial designation, plantation location, and origin. People with other interests are limited by the lack of a keyword search. The searches on African names, revolts, and runaways sort the records by categories not available through the search engine. Knowledge of database programs and statistical software (SPSS) is helpful for downloading and using the databases most effectively.

The databases are a rich source for students who want to do in-depth research or have specific questions. Teachers of high-school and introductory college classes might find other parts of the website useful for directed assignments and class discussions. Students can use Hall’s calculations to formulate and test hypotheses. For example, the “Mean Price by Gender” graph (in the calculations section) indicates that while the prices for enslaved men were higher than those for enslaved women after 1800, in some periods before 1800 the pattern was reversed. Students could discuss the factors that might influence price, such as supply (what were the African, European, and other factors that influenced whether men or women predominated in African markets?) and demand (did American buyers value women more in certain periods and regions?).

The graph “Louisiana Origins” invites questions about why Creoles predominated over Africans in the 1770s and why Africans overtook Creoles in the 1780s. What happened in Louisiana, France, Spain, West and West Central Africa, and elsewhere during this period to influence these statistics? Students can research these questions by consulting sources such as Hall’s book Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Louisiana State University Press, 1992) and general books on Atlantic slavery. These databases and Hall’s calculations invite students to learn about the use of statistics by historians and to consider how the lives of individuals and groups are affected by, and influence, global political and economic events.

Reviewed by Joan Bristol, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1718-1820 ," in in World History Commons, [accessed May 28, 2024]
Graph showing the mean price of enslaved people by their origin
“The Slave Database offers information on more than 100,000 slaves and the Free Database has records on more than 4,000 slave manumissions.”