Slave Trade Archives

UNESCO has launched the Slave Route Project in 1994. It aims to break a silence and make universally known the issue of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery, its causes and dramatic results, by means of scientific work.

© Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Brazil
Ostium Fluminis Paraybae

An International Scientific Committee was set up for this project to examine the whole question of the slave trade and its impact on the prevailing economic and political situation in a number of countries as well as a means of promoting intercultural dialogue. This committee has stressed the importance of archival materials as the basis for the study of the slave trade. 

The Slave Trade Archives Project was launched in 1999 with the aim of improving access to, and safeguarding of, original documents related to the transatlantic slave trade and slavery throughout the world. As part of the UNESCO Memory of the World programme and in close co-operation with the International Council on Archives (ICA), a feasibility study was carried out to identify national archives and related institutions in several African, Latin American and Caribbean countries, with a view to upgrading their facilities and services in order to ensure adequate preservation of original records, to obtain copies in appropriate formats of records and other documents pertaining to the slave trade and slavery. The first phase is limited to the Atlantic Slave Trade. This project is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). 

This project focuses on enhancing access to knowledge and exploitation of slave trade records. Digitization of these sources, particularly those at risk from deterioration, will help to establish a collective memory of this part of human history. A strategy of access is outlined, with a view to establishing on-line access through the UNESCO web site and other dedicated sites, and through publications of multimedia CD-ROMs on slave trade, including information on acts of resistance to slavery. At present, the project is operational in eleven countries: Benin, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana and Senegal in Africa, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Barbados, Colombia, Cuba and Haiti in Latin America and the Caribbean. This website aims to: 

  • outline the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade;
  • present the various archival funds and the document typology according to places where they are preserved; 
  • provide access to a database of digital archives relating to the transatlantic slave trade.

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