In a post back in April, I wrote about the discovery of census records of the enslaved at the Wye House Plantation. Since that time, using the transcriptions from the original documents made by historians Dr. Jean Russo and Dr. Amy Speckart, I’ve created a searchable online database of the names and entries called People of Wye House. In every step of the process, I struggled with how to present the information online, technically and visually. Every aspect of the project involved questions with complicated answers:
What to call the website? The heart of this project is about restoring something which was obscured. Slavery was destructive to family, dignity, and self-possessed identity. Without a voice to speak in the history books, the individual lives of the enslaved became blurred under a collective moniker and relegated to a group seemingly without clear distinctions—slaves. Projects such as Born in Slavery, the oral histories from the Federal Writers’ Project’s Slave Narratives sought to change that perception by bringing the voices and faces of former slaves into focus.
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