“Routes of Enslavement in the Americas,” led by Alex Borucki, associate professor of history at University of California, Irvine, is one of 21 projects receiving a 2023 Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives award from the University of California.
The $840,000 MRPI grant will expand work on the intra-American slave trade database for a period of three years. Launched online in 2018 and created by Borucki and Gregory O’Malley, professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, the database documents more than 27,000 trafficking voyages from one part of the Americas to another from 1550 to 1860. The new funding will enlarge the network of collaborating scholars and students, strengthen the investigation of this horrific traffic at the UC and increase the database’s coverage.
“I’m delighted that the University of California entrusted us with this responsibility, as this funding will support studies on the African Diaspora in the Americas across all UC campuses through faculty and graduate student grants, undergraduate internships, workshops for K-12 teachers and cultural programming engaging the public,” said Borucki.
Joined by Sabrina Smith, assistant professor of Latin American history at UC Merced, the research team will target three areas over three years: interregional movements of African and African-descended captives within colonial Mexico (including California); investigation of the Black Pacific by tracking coastal trafficking routes involving colonial ports in the seaside from California to Chile; and further research on Caribbean migrations (coerced and free) of African-descended people between islands and with the mainland Americas.
During the first year, the three project leaders will focus on outreach to new collaborators to plan for novel research directions of years two and three – they’ll work with other UC faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as other scholars from the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. Teacher workshops will be organized at UCI and UCM that will connect California’s past with the broader histories of the slave trade in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The University of California system is in a unique position to develop studies of the African Diaspora in the Pacific Americas, strengthening collaborative research with our counterparts in Mexico – because California shares a long history with this country – and connecting networks of scholars and students across Latin America. This is a very exciting prospect,” Borucki said.
Funded initially by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2016, Borucki and O’Malley set out to broaden the scope of the open-access SlaveVoyages website to promote scholarly and public awareness of how the traffic of enslaved Africans and their descendants shaped several regions of North, Central and South America. The SlaveVoyages website, launched by Emory University in 2008, is currently hosted at Rice University. UCI is a member of the consortium securing the sustainability of this digital humanities initiative.
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