|African American History Monument at The State House, Columbia |
by Robin Foster
I have been researching for over 20 years, and I still learned so much. The greatest thing that I remember he said was, "If you want to locate information about a slave ancestor, research Reconstruction records."
Well, I have only skimmed the surface when it comes to Reconstruction Era records. A light bulb somehow went on, and now I am on a mission to find all I can. I am having a great deal of success. It is as if the resources have just been waiting for me. I am learning so much about this period in our history that I did not know.
A study of Reconstruction can be quite challenging because there are so MANY contradictions and opposing viewpoints. Freedmen who struggled to exercise and keep their new found freedoms were seen as shiftless, criminals, and less than equal. You must be able to keep the proper perspective as you trudge through these records. They are useful to those who have slave owner as well as slave ancestry.
I can certainly see why anyone would want to avoid having to use them in genealogical research, but doing so may result in never finding that link back to slavery (see Reconstruction Era records are neglected genealogical resources). I have been very successful in locating a few of my ancestors so far.
Even though I have struggled a little this week and had to do some major soul searching, I feel a significant change as come over me. I understand so much more about the complexities of being African American. I understand so much more the purpose for me being taught to have integrity and to "NEVER use the word, can't." when I was growing up.
I am understanding more about the responsibility I have to share these perspectives and the resources that can help others find documentation. Yes, we are working to find evidence to document our ancestry, but in the process we are really discovering ourselves. Reconstruction was in many respects harsher than slavery.
Freedmen had no monetary value to former slave owners and were even more expendable. How did they do it? What were they made of? I hope I will understand better as I go along. I will continue to share my feelings here, but I will share resources and how you can access them in a more formal way here: Columbia Ethnic Community Examiner. I have written 3 articles this week so far. Click the "subscribe" button at the top of any of the articles so you do not miss any resources.