Mississippi State University Digitizes Records of Enslaved People

Mississippi State University Libraries is helping create the state’s first institutionally supported digital database intended to give greater access to legal records relating to people who were enslaved in the state. The Lantern Project is funded by a $340,424 grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Committee, a branch of the National Archives.

This undertaking involves digitizing 19th-century documents from across the South. The database will utilize records created or used by slave owners or the legal system to track enslaved persons, such as inventories, bills of sale, and probate and other court records, which will allow scholars and genealogists to trace victims’ movements and empower descendants to uncover their ancestries and reconstruct family trees impacted by slavery. Upon completion, the project will provide a fully text-searchable, indexed collection containing digital images of original documents that include individuals’ names and detailed physical descriptions.

Donald Shaffer, director of African American studies and an associate professor of English at Mississippi State University, said the Lantern Project will lend visibility and legitimacy to an era of history that is often erased or seen through rose-colored glasses.

“Enslavement is a deeply personal narrative involving human beings, and seeing that experience firsthand brings that home,” Dr. Shaffer said. “We need to take an unflinching view because we have to tell all stories, even those that might be difficult, if we want to grow as a society, civilization or nation.”

As in much of the South, slavery played a large role in Mississippi’s socioeconomic structure and population development. The state had approximately 437,000 enslaved persons by 1860, compared to 33,000 in 1820.

Related Articles

1 COMMENT

  1. How will this digitized documentation be utilized and will it be accessible to interested citizens? If so, how and when?

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Virginia State University Receives Approval to Launch MBA Program

“I am confident this program will equip our diverse population of men and women with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary to thrive in today’s ever-evolving world of business," said Emmanual Omojokun, dean of the Virginia State University College of Business.

Three Black Scholars Receive Faculty Appointments

The appointments are Erica Armstrong Dunbar at Emory University in Atlanta, Kimberly Haynie at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, and Kevin Vandiver at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Delaware State University Aviation Program Establishes Partnership with Endeavor Air

Through a new memorandum of understanding, students in the aviation program at Delaware State University will have the opportunity to enroll in a pathway program with Endeavor Air, ultimately leading to a priority interview with the airline company upon completion of required flight hours.

American College of Physicians Honors Bruce Ovbiagele for Advancing Diversity in Healthcare

Dr. Ovbiagele's academic career has been dedicated to eliminating local and global stroke disparities, as well as mentoring medical students and researchers from underrepresented groups.

Featured Jobs