In 2009, while researching in the National Archives in Washington DC, I kept walking by a microfilm file titled ‘Slave Manifests of Coastwise Vessels Filed at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1807-1860’. Curious to know more about these 30 rolls of microfilm and the subject matter (these contain the manifests of inbound ships; there are about 30 more files for outbound ships, many to Texas), I started looking through the first reel. Thus began a journey of learning through much research (and reading dozens of books by brilliant historians). Over a period of three years I scrolled through the 30 reels, copying the names of all 60,000+ enslaved individuals who, against their wills were sold, bought, stolen, torn from family members, and traded, mostly, but not always, in the upper south and brought to the port of New Orleans to work on the cotton and sugar slave-labor camps/plantations in the deep south.
Since 2013 I have lettered those 60,000+ names, all in graphite with a 3-H pencil on forty panels of 22x30” archival paper. (Small letters are 1/16" in height.) Sixty thousand is a relatively ‘small’ number compared to the approximately 4 millions of enslaved humans in the Deep South at the outset of the Civil War.
In addition, there are six large ‘companion’ pieces—which I call history/art works—on slavery and the slave trade, all of them including names of enslaved individuals.
The pieces History Enslaved (and Side Panels), Stolen Lives, A Single Word, Mississippi River, and Honoring by Naming are all approximately 32x40". The piece Slave-Traders and Dealers is 37x69".