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Louisiana Slave Trade

The Louisiana Slave Database

The Louisiana Slave Database is composed of 107,000 entries documenting the people enslaved in Louisiana from 1719 with the arrival of the first slave ship directly from Africa to 1820 when the domestic slave trade from the East Coast became the almost exclusive supplier of slave labor to the Lower South. The database was built by historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, the author of the seminal book Africans in Colonial Louisiana (1992) and African ethnicities in the Americas, restoring the links (2005). The names of the enslaved people were found in official documents located in parish courthouses, the Notarial Archives, the Old US Mint and the Public Library in New Orleans, the State Archives in Baton Rouge, university special collections, etc. Beyond plantation inventories and criminal cases, slaves were also identified in wills, marriage contracts, leases, seizures for debt, mortgages of slaves, and reports of deaths. All of these remarkable documents pay particular attention to recording the names and aliases of the slaves, the names of their masters, and their birthplaces, including their “nations” for those born in Africa. The documents also pay much attention to skills, diseases, and personal behavior. In the Louisiana Slave Database, the vast majority of the slaves whose birthplaces were identified were Africans. Among 38,019 slaves whose birthplaces were recorded, 24,349 (64 percent) were of African birth. Among these, 8,994 (37 percent) indicate specific “nations” while 9,382 (38.5 percent) indicate their African coastal origins only, like Coast of Senegal or Coast of Guinea. Some 5,973 records (25.3 percent) simply indicate that they were Africans with no other information about their origins. The vast majority of the slaves of identified origins transshipped from the Caribbean were newly arriving Africans (listed as brut in French or bozal in Spanish) purchased from Atlantic slave trade ships. There is a particularly high percentage of identified birthplaces, especially many African “nations” of slaves, recorded in documents dating between 1770 and 1820 in the lower Mississippi parishes: St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Pointe Coupee, and, to a lesser extent, Orleans. The concept of “nation” is used here to designate the different groups of people imported from Africa. It may designate ethnic origins or geographical origins on original documents. The notion of “frequency” is determined by the number of times the name of a particular ethnic group or geographical origin is attached to the description of slaves documented in inventories, wills, trials, mortgages, etc. It is a good indicator of the volume of the slave trade from different regions of West Africa since ethnic designations listed in Louisiana documents overwhelmingly involved self-identification by Africans.

Reference: Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Louisiana Slave Database (2000), online at