In 1838 Thomas Mulledy, S.J. signed his name to an agreement selling the 275 enslaved persons who resided on Jesuit-owned estates in Southern Maryland to Louisiana. The sale served as the culmination of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus’s fraught experience with slaveholding in the colonial and early national period. While much historical work has been written on Jesuit slaveholding, that writing has primarily focused on the implications for the religious community and the moral universe in which these men made their decisions about slavery. Thus far, however, no scholar has studied the enslaved people themselves.
This project focuses on the lives and experiences of the enslaved, rather than on their Jesuit owners. Focusing on the enslaved community itself makes this project ideally suited for digital methods. With an eye to the events and relationships that formed the warp and woof of the daily lives of this enslaved community, Sharon Leon has identified the individual enslaved people present in the documentary evidence beginning in the 1740s and situated them within their families and larger community. The source base for this work consists of a number of collections related to the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, which are housed at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections at Georgetown University. Many of the key documents are available through the Georgetown Slavery Archive.
In processing and representing this archival research, the project employs linked open data and social network analysis to assess the entire community of enslaved people and their relationships to one another across space and time. This approach allows for both a focus on the distinct individuality of each enslaved person and the ability to pull back to grasp the community in aggregate, noting trends and changes in their experiences and relationships during their time in Maryland.