Published: Feb. 14, 2018

Henry Lovejoy, assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been named the new director of

Slavery Images is an online educational resource that is “the main website” used by most scholars, researchers, professors, teachers, students and the general public to view pictures, paintings and photographs of people and places associated with the Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades and slave life in diaspora. In the last year alone, it garnered more than a million new users and 12.5 million page views.

“The images illustrate the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported across oceans and the lives of their descendants in slave societies,” Lovejoy said, adding that all of the images are primary sources from the 19th century or earlier.


Henry Lovejoy is a historian at CU Boulder. At the top of the page is an image from Slavery Images: Painting by Alphonse Levy (1843-1918) in Musee des Arts Africains et Oceaniens, Paris; published in the exhibition catalog Les Anneaux de la Memoire: Nantes-Europe-Afriques-Ameriques, Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne. Nantes, France, Dec. 1992-Feb. 1994.

Lovejoy, a specialist in the digital humanities and in curating historical material online, took over the direction of the site last month from Jerome Handler, who launched the site when he was an anthropology professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in the 1990s.

Lovejoy, however, is no stranger to this type of endeavor. Last year, he received $50,400 under a joint program with the National Endowment for Humanities and Andrew J. Mellon Foundation for his Liberated Africans project and website (—a clearinghouse of information regarding hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were liberated by British and international courts cracking down on the slave trade.

Liberated Africans is based on the collaborative efforts of an international network of academics, archivists and data scientists, he said. The goal is to document the lives of about 250,000 people who were freed during the global campaign to abolish the Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades in the 19th century.

“These individuals were designated ‘Liberated Africans,’ although in fact those people who were removed from slave ships and coastal prisons were not actually freed but were forced into periods of apprenticeship that were often documented,” Lovejoy added.

Lovejoy says Slavery Images and Liberated Africans are complementary parts of a “cutting-edge network of digital-based projects related to the history of Africa and the African Diaspora.” 

Praising Handler’s “major contribution to the field of African and African diaspora history,” Lovejoy said he plans to add more content to Slavery Images.

One possibility is to link in relevant images held in the Library of Congress. While that collection is immense, not all of the images relate to slavery. The idea would be to identify and form institutional partnerships so that people can access collections of images related to the African diaspora on a single website.

Another long-term goal is to develop Slavery Images as a platform that would host 3-D images of slavery-related world-heritage sites.

“This technology would not only enable users to be able to interact and visualize objects more clearly, but also be downloadable for virtual or augmented reality experiences,” Lovejoy said.

Tapping into 3-D technology and data clouds could have immediate benefits for the classroom, research and preservation of world heritage sites, he added.

In 1994, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee initiated a new global strategy for a more balanced and comprehensive list of world heritage sites reflecting the world’s diversity and historical complexity, according to Lovejoy. Also that year, UNESCO launched “The Slave Route Project” to “break the silence surrounding the history of slavery that has shaped the modern world.”  

Many of UNESCO’s heritage sites are endangered. Their deterioration is mostly due to warfare, natural disasters and climate change, Lovejoy said.

“As a result, new methods for the digital preservation of such sites will generate a lasting digital record for future generations.”