Boston researchers have compiled what may be the country’s first city-commissioned database of enslaved people

Jared Ross Hardesty, an associate history professor at Western Washington University who’s written about slavery in Boston, said the records can help decipher details of enslaved people’s everyday lives, and tell of the prevalence of slavery in Colonial Boston. For example, Boston probate records list Pompey, an enslaved Black 14-year-old boy, in the 1759 inventory of Thomas Fleet. Fleet left Pompey to his son, Thomas Fleet Jr., a printer who taught the youth his own trade. From this record, Hardesty said, people can imagine Pompey working at the printing press, circulating materials at the brink of the American Revolution.

“Using those kinds of contextual clues, you can kind of build out a little bit of a kind of life story around an enslaved person,” he said.