Who Owns Black Data?

Slavery & Data
March 28–29, 2024
Johns Hopkins University

YouTube Videos of the Event

In this conference, we proposed to gather a distinguished group of scholars, librarians, and archivists from the Americas and Africa to discuss, elucidate, and provide public answers to the question: who owns and controls the Black historical and cultural record? That question suggests a troubling answer as soon as we pose it. That answer is whispered in the halls of academia and once in a while it surfaces in our writings and conferences. That answer also prompts us to ask other important questions which we hope to address in our conference series: How did we end up here? How do we answer the question of ownership and control in the context of today's hybrid record, both analog and digital? What can and should we do going forward? Can we tie the question of control over our material inheritance to the movement for reparations for colonial harms and the evils of the trans-Atlantic slave trade? Should Black stakeholders be guaranteed a seat at the decision-making table in matters of the historical and cultural record of Black people? What happens when data about Black people and historical figures is created or curated by people who are not Black, as is the case of many, if not most important sources from the early modern period until the present? What further implications should we consider when that data is commodified, monetized or used as leverage within current regimes of private property? How do we begin to connect these questions to the role that ownership has played in Black History?


The Series

Johns Hopkins University ❖ Yale University ❖ To Be Determined