Introducing the Locating Slavery's Legacies Database Project

The basic objective of the Locating Slavery’s Legacies database (LSLdb) is to collect information about monuments and memorials identified with the Civil War and Confederacy on the campuses of American colleges. This information will help us analyze and understand the impact of Lost Cause movements on higher education in the United States in the 160 years after emancipation. 

Over the past decade or more, teams working at individual colleges and universities already have begun investigating memorialization on their campuses, gathering important information that yields insight into the influence of “Lost Cause” and related campaigns on their educational mission and practices. To this point, however, the information compiled often has not been shared beyond the walls of the individual institutions. It remains bound to the particular college campus, creating a situation that constrains our ability to compare and contrast among diverse institutions. Were Lost Cause memorial campaigns limited to a few colleges or widespread among institutions across the southern region? How influential were organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy? We do not know the answer to these or other important questions because there is no common repository for collecting and sharing this information, vital as it is to understanding higher education’s role in the injustices attributable to the legacies of American slavery.

The LSLdb project aims to address and alleviate these constraints by enabling and empowering researchers – college instructors, archivists, and their students – to share it in a common archive that addresses and potentially reveals the bigger picture. The LSLdb works on a model of inter-institutional collaboration. Instructors who join the database project may embed memorial investigation assignments in their courses. The information that students collect and organize can be entered on the LSLdb website using agreed-upon standards and practices. 

What results, we hope, is a resource yielding insight into the history of the Lost Cause at individual colleges while also allowing comparative analysis of Confederate memorialization as a larger political, social, and cultural movement that shaped teaching and learning on campuses across the southern region and beyond. In addition, we have incorporated features to represent monuments and memorials erected in opposition to the Lost Cause, slavery, and white supremacy and in support of racial equality and universal Civil Rights. These features enable institutions, such as HBCUs, with deep or recent histories of memorializing African Americans' long struggle for Civil Rights to contribute their campus structures to the database, thereby complicating and diversifying the record of memorialization in the century and a half after emancipation.  

The LSLdb uses the Omeka S web platform, which works on a two-tier hub-and-spoke design structure. The “hub site” aggregates the information from across all participating campuses, enabling a bird’s eye view and analysis of Lost Cause memorialization beyond the institutional gates and across space and time. The individual “spoke sites” collect and display data from an individual campus and are accessed through the hub site or directly via its unique URI.  

LSLdb Sponsors and Team

The LSLdb is sponsored and led by the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. It was constructed in collaboration with the design team of Omeka, the world’s leading developer of web-publishing resources supporting the digital humanities. The database project is made possible by a generous Legacies of American Slavery grant from the Council of Independent Colleges and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University’s MacMillan Center.

The LSLdb team of the Roberson Project includes Dr. Woody Register, Director; Dr. Tiffany Momon, Assistant Director; Ms. October Kamara, LSLdb Project Lead; and Dr. Hannah Huber, Digital Humanities Specialist (Center for Southern Studies).