As the new year of 2021 dawns, we have yet more news from Universities Studying Slavery (USS) headquarters in Charlottesville. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York has joined our team. Associate Provost Dara Byrne (also the Dean of Undergraduate Studies), who has been working to make the school’s curriculum more anti-racist and culturally responsive, and Founder/Co-Director of the New York Slavery Records Index Professor Judy-Lynne Peters. We are glad to have their team join us and we know that our broader membership will have so much to share with John Jay College’s team regarding research, acknowledgement, and public history.
As part of John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s joining the consortium, we are also thrilled to highlight the school’s expansive digital project regarding the records of enslaved persons and enslavers in New York from 1525 to 1865. The NY Slavery Records Index (NYSRI), co-directed by Professors Ned Benton and Judy-Lynne Peters at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, is an ongoing research and service project, begun in 2017, to find, organize and index the locations of records that document the details of enslavement in New York State. Currently, there are close to 40,000 records in the project database that are accessible to scholars, students, and the general public online via an open public website.
The NYSRI is designed to deepen understanding of slavery and the individuals enslaved in New York by bringing together information that otherwise would be lost, disconnected, or difficult to access. To accomplish this, the project investigates the locations of records, assembles the database to index the records it finds, and then to use digital and website technologies to present the information for use by scholars, students, and the public. The NYSRI provides digital access or links to many forms of records, such as census lists, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources.
As more and more schools engage in this work, create free public archives of digitized materials, develop databases, and employ the latest digital pedagogy, we move ever closer to creating a startlingly powerful set of research tools that will allow descendants, scholars, and students to track enslaved people across time and space in ways that move well beyond the already impressive scope of projects such as the New York Slavery Records Index. We look forward to further USS member collaboration and partnership connecting these digital projects.
Again, please welcome John Jay College of Criminal Justice to the movement of schools researching and educating about slavery and racism in institutional, state, and national pasts.