Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Visualization

Matthew Burdumy and Professor Adam Rothman


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Summary of Project

What happens when a historian of slavery teams up with a computer scientist? A stunning visualization of the transatlantic slave trade.

Professor Adam Rothman, a historian of slavery at Georgetown University, and Matt Burdumy (GU ’15), a talented computer science major, joined forces in Professor Rothman’s History of the Atlantic World class to map more than 35,000 slaving voyages from 1500 to 1870. Under Rothman’s guidance, Burdumy used his skills as a programmer to geolocate data from the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, and layer the data as a time-lapsed heatmap on a Google Map canvas.

Burdumy created a three-part visualization of the historical geography of the Atlantic slave trade. The first map shows the origin of slaving voyages, the second shows where slave ships embarked from West, West-Central, and Southeast Africa, and the third shows where the slavers disembarked their human cargoes in the Americas. The color spectrum from green to red shows the number and density of voyages cumulating over time. You can zoom in and out of each map for more or less detail.

While one can find many static illustrations of the historical geography of the Atlantic slave trade, this time-lapse visualization is the first of its kind.

For further technical information about this project, please contact Professor Adam Rothman at Georgetown University.

Cumulative Frequency of Slave Voyage Port of Departure

This map shows where Atlantic slaving voyages originated.

Before 1535

Cumulative Frequency of Principal Port of Slave Purchase

This map shows where Atlantic slavers purchased captive Africans.

Before 1526

Cumulative Frequency of Principal Port of Slave Sale

This map shows where Atlantic slavers disembarked their human cargoes.

Before 1526