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Jane Landers

Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History

Expert on digital archives and the history of Colonial Latin America, slavery, early American black history.


Jane Landers is a historian of Colonial Latin America and the Atlantic World specializing in the history of Africans and their descendants in those worlds. She is the author of Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions (Cambridge, Mass., 2010) which was awarded the Rembert Patrick Book Award and honorary mention for the Conference on Latin American History’s 2011 Bolton Johnson Prize. Her first monograph Black Society in Spanish Florida (Urbana, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005) was awarded the Frances B. Simkins Prize for Distinguished First Book in Southern History and was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. Landers co-authored the college textbook, The Atlantic World: A History, 1400-1888 (Harlan Davidson, 2007). She has published essays in The American Historical Review, Slavery and Abolition, The New West Indian Guide, The Americas, Colonial Latin American Historical Review, The Journal of African American History and a variety of anthologies and edited volumes. Landers is also the director of the Slave Societies Digital Archive which is dedicated to identifying, cataloging and digitally preserving endangered archival materials documenting the history of Africans and their descendants in the Atlantic World. Additionally, she is a member of the UNESCO international Scientific Committee of slave routes.

Media Appearances

  • A Massive New Database Will Connect Billions of Historic Records to Tell the Full Story of American Slavery

    Historians, of course, have long made good use of various records, from plantation inventories and escaped slave advertisements to personal narratives collected by obscure abolition societies. But those details are housed at far-flung institutions, and not consistently organized. Jane Landers, a historian at Vanderbilt University, set out in 2003 to change that. Since that time, the project called the “Slave Societies Digital Archive” has digitized some 700,000 pages of religious and other documents from colonial Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Florida and Angola. Unlike in the English colonies, where enslaved people were treated almost exclusively as property, in Spanish and Portuguese America, they “were considered fully human, with souls to be saved,” Landers says. Their life events were faithfully recorded, often by the Catholic church. The earliest of these archives date to the 16th century.

    January 1st, 2020

  • Nashville Civil War fort gets 'slave route' designation

    A fort built by African Americans during the Civil War in Nashville has received an international designation for its significance to the history of slavery. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has named Fort Negley a “Site of Memory,” as part of its Slave Route Project.

    May 22nd, 2019

  • What Catholic Church records tell us about America’s earliest black history

    For most Americans, black history begins in 1619, when a Dutch ship brought some “20 and odd Negroes” as slaves to the English colony of Jamestown, in Virginia. Many are not aware that black history in the United States goes back at least a century before this date.

    February 22nd, 2019

  • I dig through archives to unearth hidden stories from African-American history

    Many years ago, as a graduate student searching in the archives of Spanish Florida, I discovered the first “underground railroad” of enslaved Africans escaping from Protestant Carolina to find religious sanctuary in Catholic Florida. In 1738, these runaways formed Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first free black settlement in what became the U.S.

    December 4th, 2018


Ph.D., University of Florida

M.A., University of Miami

B.A., University of Miami


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