The initiators expect the publication of these archive sources to lead to increased interest in Curaçao’s history of slavery and support people looking for their enslaved ancestors.
Impact of slavery
The publication of Curaçao’s slave register and emancipation registers is part of a project to map the effects of slavery and its long-term impact on the generations following the abolition of slavery in 1863. The project is led by Radboud University historian Coen van Galen, who was also involved in the publication of the Surinamese slave registers in the last few years: “After that I was frequently approached by people from Curaçao asking when the Curaçao slave registers would appear online.”
The Curaçao registers are now ready for publication, sooner than expected thanks to effective collaboration between the universities and archives involved, but also thanks to the work of Curaçao researcher Els Langenfeld, says Max Scriwanek, Director of the National Archives of Curaçao: “In the course of her research on the archives, Langenfeld created an index of the slave registers, which she bequeathed to the Mongui Maduro Library. After her death in 2013, the index found its way via her relatives to the Curaçao National Archives. Langenfeld’s index was incredibly helpful in creating this database.”
Video of the National Archives of Curaçao to emphasize the great importance of the online availability of the registers. Among the speakers are Minister Konket (Curaçao) and Minister van Engelshoven (Netherlands)
Curaçao slave register and emancipation registers
The database published online consists of the slave register and two emancipation registers. The slave register of Curaçao lists any person who was the property of a private slave owner in Curaçao in the period between 1839 and the abolition of slavery in 1863. For each person, the register lists the first name, year of birth, mother’s name, and name of the slave owner. In addition, the register also lists information about births, deaths, and the sale, import and export of slaves, since Curaçao remained a centre of small-scale international slave trade well into the 19th century.
Video of historian Coen van Galen with dutch artist Willie Wartaal (Olivier Locadia) looking for information about his ancestors who where living in slavery.
The emancipation registers list the slaves who were granted freedom on 1 July 1863. The emancipation registers form an important complement to the slave register because they list the last names that people were given in 1863. “Dutch people with Curaçao roots can now more easily investigate their family’s past,” says Johan van Langen of the National Archives of the Netherlands. “By making archives about the shared history of Curaçao and the Netherlands available online, we also hope to facilitate academic research, for example on the long-term impact of slavery and colonialism, a topic that is increasingly gaining attention in the social debate.”
The slave register and emancipation registers of Curaçao are available online starting from 17 August. This date was chosen because it coincides with Tula Day, the day on which Curaçao commemorates its slavery history and the rebellion of Tula, 225 years ago this year.
This project is the result of a collaboration between Radboud University, the University of Curaçao, the National Archives of Curaçao and the Netherlands, and the Mongui Maduro Library in Curaçao. It was made possible thanks to grants from the Democracy and Media Foundation and the Platform Digital Infrastructure SSH. The slave registers form part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register – Latin America and the Caribbean.
The registers will be available online from 17 August, 16:00 (CEST) on the websites of both national archives:
More information? Please contact:
- Coen van Galen, Radboud University, c.vangalen [at] let.ru.nl, for general questions about the project and research.
- Max Scriwanek, National Archives of Curaçao, max.scriwanek [at] gmail.comclass="externLink", for questions about the significance of the sources.
- Johan van Langen, National Archives of the Netherlands, johan.van.langen [at] nationaalarchief.nl, for questions about the online availability of slave registers.
- Science Communication at Radboud University, media [at] ru.nlclass="externLink", 024 361 6000