FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2011
Contact: Jennifer M. Guild, Senior Officer for Public Relations and Marketing
Tel: (804) 342-9665 | Email:
Virginia Historical Society Creating Searchable Online Slave Database
Grant from Dominion will Fund the Path-Breaking African American History Project
Richmond, VA—The Virginia Historical Society (VHS) recently received a $100,000 grant from Dominion Resources and The Dominion Foundation to fund the creation of Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names. This free, online database will contain personal information about enslaved Virginians gleaned from some of the more than eight million processed manuscripts in VHS collections.
"The Unknown No Longer database is the first of its kind and will serve as a national model," said VHS president and CEO Paul Levengood. "The database will be a valuable tool for academic researchers, family historians, and genealogists alike. A website visitor could enter as much or as little information as he or she knows about a particular African American to conduct a search. The results can lead to previously unknown connections between people, families, and places."
"This project is an example of both the VHS and Dominion's commitment to using technology to increase access to historical collections and our dedication to reaching out to a diverse constituency."
The road from emancipation and Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement and the election of Virginia's first black governor is well documented in Virginia history. But early African American history (from the arrival of the first slaves through the Civil War) is often represented only through the words of white observers, freed persons who looked back on slavery many years later, or the records generated by others about African Americans who achieved recognition for their actions. For most enslaved Americans, the only physical record of their existence may be a name in a register kept by a slave owner.
Unknown No Longer will be searchable through the use of a variety of keywords, such as name, gender, location, occupation, and plantation. It will also include images of original source documents for easy reference.
"We have witnessed a growing audience frequenting the VHS in search of information that our records might provide, such as names of enslaved people, plantation sites, occupation and family relations, values, and birth, death, or sale dates," said VHS chief librarian Frances Pollard. "We want to provide the more than 700,000 visitors to our website another, more detailed tool to access remotely specific information about potentially thousands of people."
"We have researched other slave database websites and found Unknown No Longer to be unique in design and approach," said VHS curator of African American history Dr. Lauranett Lee, who will oversee the Unknown No Longer research. "Existing databases profile specific plantations and ship manifestos with African names of their human cargo or other forced migratory information. Unknown No Longer will be the first database of names that relate back to plantations or places of work across all of slaveholding Virginia."
The VHS will be officially launching Unknown No Longer in September 2011 with 1,000 names in the searchable database. Information in the database will be updated as relevant material in the VHS manuscript collection is processed and new documents come into VHS possession.
"Unknown No Longer is a dynamic project," said Levengood. "With items entering the VHS collection annually, there will always be important new sources of information available. We hope that many researchers will take this opportunity to use the Virginia Historical Society's documents and materials to discover a connection with the past."
For more than 178 years, the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) has been the steward of our state—and often
national—history. Headquartered at 428 North Boulevard in Richmond, the VHS features award-winning exhibitions that
are entertaining and educational for visitors of all ages. Although designated the Official State Historical Society, the VHS
is a privately funded non-profit organization that relies on contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations
to sustain its operations. Hours: Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Admission is free. For group
tour information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, call (804) 358-4901 or visit www.vahistorical.org.
Dominion is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of more than 27,600 megawatts of generation, 12,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline and 6,000 miles of electric transmission lines. Dominion operates the nation’s largest natural gas storage system with 942 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves retail energy customers in 13 states. Corporate headquarters are in Richmond, Va. Dominion's strategy is to be a leading provider of electricity, natural gas and related services to customers in the energy-intensive Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S., a potential market of 50 million homes and businesses where 40 percent of the nation's energy is consumed. For more information about Dominion, visit the company's website at www.dom.com.