The DATAS project researches the lives of the individuals who were caught up in the slave trade, not merely as enslaved labour or as racialized ‘Others’, but as people. The focus of the project is on ethnonyms (names used to refer to ethnic groups, tribes, or peoples), such as ‘Mina’, ‘Congo’, ‘Coromantee’, ‘Igbo’, ‘Mandenga’, ‘Sape’, ‘Moko’, ‘Jolofo’.
Although sometimes dismissed as meaningless categories imposed by enslavers and imperialists, DATAS treats ethnonyms as valuable pieces of information, inadvertent acknowledgements of an enslaved persons’ humanity in an archival record almost invariably renders people as property. In doing so, the DATAS project changes the way we think about and research Atlantic slavery, forcing historians and other researchers to ask deeper questions about history’s largest forced migration and the cultural links between Africa and the Americas.
DATAS grew out of and maintains a close relationship with Freedom Narratives, a long-running collaborative effort to collect narratives and biographical information in individual enslaved Africans throughout the Atlantic World. The project is funded by the Netherlands Research Council (NWO) and ESRC, with teams based in Canada, France, and the UK.