About this Project
This database is the latest step by the Virginia Historical Society to increase access to its varied collections relating to Virginians of African descent. Since its founding in 1831, the VHS has collected unpublished manuscripts, a collection that now numbers more than 8 million processed items.
Within these documents are numerous accounts that collectively help tell the stories of African Americans who have lived in the state over the centuries. Our first effort to improve access to these stories came in 1995 with publication of our Guide to African American Manuscripts. A second edition appeared in 2002, and the online version is continually updated as new sources enter our catalog (http://www.vahistorical.org/aamcvhs/guide_intro.htm).
The next step we envisioned would be to create a database of the names of all the enslaved Virginians that appear in our unpublished documents. Thanks to a generous grant from Dominion Resources and the Dominion Foundation in January 2011, we launched the project that has resulted in this online resource. Named Unknown No Longer, the database seeks to lift from the obscurity of unpublished historical records as much biographical detail as remains of the enslaved Virginians named in those documents. In some cases there may only be a name on a list; in others more details survive, including family relationships, occupations, and life dates.
Unknown No Longer does not contain names that may appear in published sources at the VHS or in unpublished sources located in repositories other than the VHS. On the other hand, those whose names appear in the database need not have lived their lives solely in Virginia, for our collections contain plantation records, for example, kept by Virginians who moved to other states, taking their slaves with them. In addition, if we know that an individual named in a post-Civil War document had been enslaved before 1865, his or her name will appear in the database.
It will take years to scour the millions of documents likely to contain the names of the enslaved. Rather than wait, we want to launch Unknown No Longer as a work in progress. In that fashion, we hope it will help promote access to our collections, even as we add to the list of names. As of September 2011, there are already more than 1,500 slave names in the database, a number that we hope and expect will grow rapidly as we continue to uncover the names of those who are unknown no longer.
Nelson Lankford, Vice President for Programs, project director for the Dominion grant that underwrote the creation of the database.
E. Lee Shepard, Vice president for Collections, led the conceptual development of Unknown No Longer and monitors the content uploaded into the database.
Meg M. Eastman, Digital Collections Manager, photographed all documents and helped upload images to the site.
Greg Hansard, Senior Web Resources Officer, assisted with development and design of site, filming of introductory video, and project consultant with Helium Studio.
Grace M. Hindman, Digitization Intern (Spring 2012), assisted with photography, uploaded images and entered data to the records.
Jennifer D. Jones, Intern (2011-2012), assisted in the research and survey of manuscripts, assisted with photography and input information into database.
Lauranett Lee, Ph.D., curator of African American history, assisted with design, conducts research with primary sources, and interfaces with public.
Kelly Murphy, Intern (Summer 2011), assisted in the research and survey of manuscripts and input information into database.
L. Paige Newman, Assistant Archivist, research and survey manuscripts and input information into database.
Daniel Primiani, Intern (Summer 2012), assisted in the research and survey of manuscripts and input information into database.
Asya L. Simons, Digitization Intern (Summer 2011), assisted with photography, uploaded images and entered data to the records.
Design and Custom Database Development by HeliumStudio
About the Project
How to use the database
Selected Media CoverageCNN: (Read article)
The Washington Post: (Read article)
The New York Times: (Read article)
Richmond Times-Dispatch: (Read article)
Richmond.com: (Read article)
Capital News Service: (Read article)
RVANews: (Read article)
Unknown No Longer is sponsored in part by a generous grant from Dominion, a Fortune 200 energy company headquartered in Richmond.