What is the true impact of racial slavery in the United States today? Technological innovation and newly available data sources create unprecedented possibilities for understanding America’s past, especially as it pertains to racial and ethnic groups who have been systematically excluded from traditional historical analyses. This research initiative combines qualitative, community-grounded social science with innovative big-data methodologies to bring to light in unprecedented detail how an entire community was transformed by the United States’ legacy of slavery, while also establishing ethical norms for this type of emerging research.

The case of the GU272 descendants—the distant sons and daughters of the African men and women owned and then sold by Georgetown University—offers a unique opportunity to build a community-engaged research project from the ground up, showcasing both innovative research methods and standards for ethical engagement. The data collection for this research will be a collaborative effort between local and national memory institutions, descendants and community members, and various scholars across academic disciplines and institutions.

Under the leadership of historian Adam Rothman, the SSRC is also supporting research needed to further develop the Georgetown Slavery Archive. 

Supported by the Ford Foundation, American Slavery’s Legacy across Space and Time is an outgrowth of the work of the Scholarly Borderlands initiative’s Working Group on Big Data and Historical Social Science.