About this Project

Practices of Emancipation is a multi-year collaborative research project that is building a linked online database and interactive map containing records of over 100,000 African Americans in the Civil War era. The goal is to deepen our understanding of the agency of enslaved people in their own emancipation, while providing genealogists, students, and scholars with an opportunity to discover the life stories of individuals and families largely absent from the history books. With the support of the Neubauer Collegium the research team has already geocoded the enlistment and birth locations of over 100,000 African American Civil War soldiers, allowing them to produce a dynamic map of emancipation as it played out in movements of fugitivity and armed resistance. Over the next two years the researchers intend to link these soldiers to a database of freed people (mostly women, the elderly, and children) in Civil War refugee camps, and to make both databases freely available online. Alisea W. McLeod, a leading expert on so-called “contraband camp” registers, will be in residence as a Visiting Fellow at the Neubauer Collegium in 2020–2021, where she will work with the project's researchers and programmers on exploring and codifying the registers, linking them to African American soldiers, and making them publicly accessible via the web. In 2021-2022 the team will finalize building the tools necessary to publish all the data and organize a final colloquium to explore the broader implications of this research and draw a roadmap for further collaborative work on nineteenth-century black digital history.

IMAGE: Colored Troops, Under General Wild, Liberating Slaves in North Carolina, from Harper’s Weekly, January 23, 1864.

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