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Welcome. (Whew.)

By Woody Register, Director of the Roberson Project at Sewanee

The Locating Slavery’s Legacies development team at Sewanee’s Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation welcomes you to the new and public online database.


It is hard for us to believe that after nearly two years of work, we and you are here and actually using the database.

This resource is in its infancy. We started with eight pilot partners last year and ended up with seven at the close of the academic year. This year we have added twelve partners, and the number is likely to grow in the spring.

This is my way of saying that what you see in the database today is very much a start, an initial public offering. The original set of teams will be adding more memorials to their lists, as will Sewanee. We all have only just begun. The new teams — from Maryland to Texas — will be starting with a limited number of contributions, which we hope and expect to grow in years to come. This project is as much about teaching and learning as it is about compiling and indexing information. It is designed to fit and conform to the priorities of teaching, the unexpected ups and downs of our courses, the rhythms of semesters. Building it will take time, and we are patient.

The next blog post, “What if …?”, tells the larger story of how the database came to the minds of the Roberson Project staff over the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, and how we came to understand its potential purposes and capacities.

This inaugural post is about gratitude. It is my and our opportunity to thank everyone who was involved and whose support was indispensable.

First, there was the development team at Omeka: at the start, Sharon Leon and Ken Albers, and then joined by Kim Nguyen. They got us started in turning our ideas into a digital humanities resource using the Omeka S web platform. How did they do it? With patience, intelligence, and good will. We could not be more grateful to them.

Second, there was the team of the Legacies of American Slavery initiative: Phil Katz at the Council of Independent Colleges; David Blight and Michelle Zacks at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale’s Macmillan Center. A very generous Legacies grant, originally funded by the Mellon Foundation and managed by the CIC and GLC, enabled us to take on the overhead costs of building the database infrastructure. That meant that teams at participating colleges and universities can use it without having to shoulder any upfront costs. The grant also supported programming and promotional events. Now, as it launches publicly, the LSLdb is really a joint project of the Roberson Project, the CIC, and the GLC.

Third, our teams of pilot partners: Dan Fountain at Meredith College; Nashieli Marcano at Furman University; Jody Allen and Sarah Thomas of William and Mary’s Lemon Project; Jonathan Jones at VMI and now James Madison University; Philip Stone at Wofford College; Shaunta Alvarez at Elon University; Selena Sanderfer at Western Kentucky University.

Fourth, our colleagues and friends at Universities Studying Slavery, especially Kirt von Daacke and Ashley Schmidt at UVA. Over the last seven years, the twice yearly meetings of USS and the panels assembled for those gatherings have been a source of inspiration, excitement, and collegiality.

Fifth, our colleagues in IT here at Sewanee, especially Raymond Val, Linux System Administrator, and the generous and hardworking people of Strategic Digital Infrastructure: Chrissy Gates, Anthony Nunez, Alex Price, and others.

Sixth, our collaborators in the conferences and symposia we have held over the last two years. I draw special attention to Sheffield Hale and Claire Haley of Atlanta History Center.

Seventh, the leadership, faculty, and staff of the University of the South have been with the Roberson Project every step of the way. I am especially grateful to John McCardell and John Swallow for launching the Roberson Project in 2017 after sending my future colleague Tanner Potts and me to our first USS meeting in 2016; to Nancy Berner, as Provost and later Acting Vice-Chancellor, and Scott Wilson, as Acting Provost, who kept the Roberson Project up and running through COVID, after COVID, and up to the present.

Last or, to be honest, first of all, I personally owe so much to my talented colleagues of the Roberson Project: Tiffany Momon, Andy Maginn, October Kamara, Hannah Huber, and, with emphasis, Kathy Solomon. Their hard work and creativity are evident everywhere in the project. I also know how much I relied on their patience and forbearance over the last two years, which were challenging for me on so many levels. I have been most fortunate to know and work with them as colleagues and friends.

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