The upcoming 2016 Spring semester will have students in my World History course learn what it is to “do” history. Further, I designed the “Naming Names!” project so that students can present there findings to the public, plus add a small “service learning” component to their historical studies. Here’s the gist:

Intro: The Atlantic slave trade radically altered the planet. Estimates vary: claims of a conservative nature state that some 12-million slaves landed in the New World from Africa between 1514 and 1866. However, these are the humans that completed the journey. Missing in this conservative count were those humans that did not successfully complete the crossing. Hundreds of thousands of newly enslaved humans died in passage, and tens of thousands died in factories awaiting transport. Smugglers and pirates raided port towns and slave ships, seizing and then selling off slaves elsewhere: illegally, unseen, and unrecorded. Attacks upon African villages and towns caused deaths, too, and those that survived these slave raids would then learn (or not) how to fend for themselves without men to protect and provide for them. If we take these numbers into account – perhaps as many as 25-million people were affected by the 352 years that the Atlantic slave trade was legal.

This UK-based abolitionists drawing is entitled "Little Popo," named after the port city of Aného (modern day Togo) then controlled by the Portuguese.

This UK-based abolitionists drawing is entitled “Little Popo,” named after the port city of Aného (modern day Togo) then controlled by the Portuguese.

With this background, and knowing the sanctified legality of the Atlantic slave trade, the “Naming Names!” project dares to asks: who were these people that traded in human beings? Did they keep books and make records? Profit and loss statements? Who made money trading a commodity known as humans? And what impact did the legal trade in slaves for over three-and-a-half centuries have on today’s slave system?

Goals: The “Naming Names!” project has two purposes. #1) The most obvious goal is to name names – in other words, to identify some of the people, companies, and corporations that owned and operated the slave ships which enslaved and transported human beings for profit. #2) The second goal is to highlight and understand the “liberal economic forces” unleashed unto which these “economies of scales” numbers can best be understood. Understanding this second goal will help students internalize today’s illegal, enormous, but intensely real slave trade, and perhaps offer solutions to break its chains.

For further details on the “Naming Names!” project, just leave a note, or email me at