St. Eustatius to become part of International Digital Archive

Angela Sutton (left) of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, going through old documents with Secretary of St. Eustatius Historical Foundation Walter Hellebrand.


ST. EUSTATIUS–Once the main destination for the African slave trade in the eighteenth century, St. Eustatius has a fascinating history that remains largely undiscovered on the world stage. But this may change since Angela Sutton from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, visited the Historical Gem in her quest to collect and digitise records that could enable descendants on Statia or anywhere else in the world to connect with their enslaved ancestors.

For the last 10 years, Sutton has worked with Director of her University’s Slave Societies Digital Archive (SSDA) Jane Landers.

“I want to retell the past, not rewrite it,” Sutton explained. “Our work in publishing all types of historical records from former slave societies like Brazil and Cuba has allowed Africans and their descendants to be properly integrated into the history of those nations. It has also provided countless families with the ability to reconstruct their pasts.”

With potential funding from the British Library Endangered Archives Project, Sutton has been discussing with Statia’s Monuments Director and Secretary of St. Eustatius Historical Foundation Walter Hellebrand how best to collect historical records on the island.

“Church, school and government records are often superb in revealing historical information that goes back to the 17th century,” Sutton noted. “However, we are urging everybody on Statia to look in their shoe boxes filled with old photos, their forgotten family papers in the loft or whatever memorabilia that date from before the 1900s. Every scrap and script that tells a tale will be shared online in perpetuity.”

“So, share this treasure with Hellebrand,” Sutton insisted. “He is our intended project partner on the island. He will ensure the documents get digitized and returned quickly. They are part of a historical jigsaw that will fill in historical gaps and be available online for free to anyone who wants to use them. They will bring joy to a lot of people around the world.”

During the Atlantic slave trade, well over 10 million individuals were enslaved and transported from West Africa, many of them through Statia.

“Their survival and descendants’ legacies are to be celebrated and integrated into our shared history, not forgotten,” said Sutton.

She has had a long-standing fascination with Statia and its history. Hellebrand gave her a tour around many of the historical sites.

Walking around and studying the locations she had read so much about was a wonderful experience. “I have fallen in love with the island. Its history and heritage are worthy attractions for any visitor,” Sutton said.

Source: The Daily Herald