Liberated Africans is a digital publication that details the operation of international court systems and their involvement and effort in stopping the slave trade throughout the 19th century. The title derives from what the court systems called the emancipated Africans. After the United States and Britain curtailed international and maritime slave trade in 1807-8, more anti-slave-trade treaties were signed that included Portuguese, Spanish, Brazillian, French, and other authorities. These authorities seized ships suspected of participating in the slave trade, raided coastal barracks, and detained slaves who had arrived in the Americas, Africa, Atlantic and Indian Ocean islands, Arabia, and India. Between 1808 and 1896 across the court systems included, an estimated 6% of over 4 million enslaved Africans were emancipated. Over 250,000 people are included on the site, with liberated Africans, court officials, captains, crews, and those appointed as guardians of liberated Africans. The site sources court records, trial proceedings, labor contracts, legislation, correspondence, images, and most importantly, court registers listing the names of over 100,000 liberated Africans along with their African names, aliases, age, sex, height, and a brief physical description.

The website is easily navigated, with the menu at the top divided between “About,” “Browse,” “Gallery,” and “Analysis.” Users can click through the “About” section to get an overview of the project, sources, copyright, and contributors. The “Browse” section holds the database, and users can search for information regarding courts, cases, people, and sources. By navigating through this section, users can narrow their searches through provinces, countries, dates, and more to guide their research. “Gallery” collects images and photographs of related places and people. “Analysis” provides six short-form essays on certain themes present throughout the database, such as “Gender & Age in the Caribbean,” “Tribunal Legislation,” and “Resettlement Demographics in Caribbean.” There is also a search bar and advanced search options.

There are a number of strengths presented through this digital publication. First, the site collects information that is large-scale, multilingual, and from multiple places across the world. By gathering all this data, the site allows for unprecedented analysis related to this global movement. Second, the site is easy to navigate and guides the user into reading about specific people and specific cases; also, having the names of so many emancipated enslaved Africans is valuable in itself, as names are often lost. While there are no resources specifically for teachers such as lesson plans or activities, the database would still be useful for students and educators alike. Educators could use the site to create a lesson plan or lecture about emancipation and abolition efforts across the globe. Students could explore the website and glean lots of information without much guidance. Students could then pick either a ship, a case, or specific liberated Africans and write an essay after reading the database and the analyses.

Reviewed by Caroline Greer, George Mason University
How to Cite This Source
Caroline Greer, Liberated Africans in World History Commons,