Project Description

“Remembering the Middle Passage” is a research project sponsored by Duke University’s Data+ program, Duke Bass Connections and Duke Humanities Unbounded.


Through data analysis, we aim to achieve two objectives in this research project:

  1. Locate where the enslaved Africans died along the Middle Passage and explore possible reasons behind their deaths.   (View the result visualizations here)
  2. Analyze the mortality pattern of the enslaved Africans along the Middle Passage. (View the result visualizations here)


We used the following two publicly available databases for our research:

  1. Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database,  curated by historian David Eltis from Emory University. This database includes 34,948 slave trade voyages from the mid-16th to mid-19th centuries, with records such as the number of captives embarked and disembarked, departure locations and destinations, captain names, and fates of the captives, but without day-to-day geographical records.

2. The Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans (CLIWOC), funded by the European Union.  This database includes 906 ships (including but not limited to slave ships) on the Atlantic Ocean between 1750 and 1850.  It is composed of climate and weather data, with 280,281 daily entries marking latitude/longitude and/or weather events. 

Screen shot of CLIWOC Database

Utilization of the two databases in tandem enabled mapping of thousands of days of latitude and longitude data from slave ships’ journey along with the attendant location of captives’ deaths. Using logbook entries compiled in the CLIWOC database, dates of enslaved deaths have been matched with the corresponding latitude and longitude of the ship on that day. When possible, details about the age and gender of the deceased person have also been recorded and included in the new dataset.

For more on how we used these databases and our methodology, click here.