February is African American History Month. The theme this year is "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas."
A proclamation by President Obama states "This year's theme, "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas," is a chance to examine the evolution of our country and how African Americans helped draw us ever closer to becoming a more perfect union.
The narrative of the African American pursuit of full citizenship with all of the rights and privileges afforded others in this country is also the story of a maturing young Nation. The voices and examples of the African American people worked collectively to remove the boulders of systemic racism and discrimination that pervaded our laws and our public consciousness for decades. Through the work of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall, the African American community has steadily made progress toward the dreams within its grasp and the promise of our Nation. Meanwhile, the belief that those dreams might one day be realized by all of our citizens gave African American men and women the same sense of duty and love of country that led them to shed blood in every war we have ever fought, to invest hard-earned resources in their communities with the hope of self empowerment, and to pass the ideals of this great land down to their children and grandchildren."
If you have tried to do African American genealogy research you know that it can be difficult to find records. So I decided to focus on some site that may be helpful in getting the research done.
First of all, FamilySearch Records pilot (http://pilot.familysearch.org) site has the Freedman Bank Records (1864-1874) and the Freedman's Burea Virginia Marriage Records (1815-1866) available online. Additionally, the 1850 US Census Slave Schedule is also available at this site.
Another useful site is Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (http://www.slavevoyages.org). This site has information on almost 35,000 slave trading voyages with a total of over 10 million slaves who were brought to the Americas. You can research the various ships or look at the slave name database for information.
AfriGeneas (http://www.afrigeneas.com/) is another site that may be useful. Their goal is to encourage and support the research of African ancestored individuals in researching their roots. This site has received awards from DearMyrtle and Dynastree and is consistently listed as one of FamilyTree Magazine's Top 101 Best Websites. This site provides great how-to guides for researching African American ancestory.
Access Genealogy (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/african) has a fairly comprehensive list of websites that are available to assist in your research. It will probably take a while to go through all of the resources listed on this site and hopefully you will be able to find several that are especially of use to you.
I just ran across another great website this morning while doing some research. This website is from Suriname and includes a searchable database of 6,364 emancipated Surinamese slaves from 1832-1863. The site is located at http://tinyurl.com/cgk5y6. The site is in Dutch so you will have to use a translator such as Google Translator or Babblefish.
I also want to highlight a couple of websites associated with PBS. These are African American Lives 2006 (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aalives/2006/index.html) and African American Lives 2 (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aalives/index.html). These sites have copies of interviews for famous African Americans such as Oprah, Chris Rock, Maya Angelou and others. Some of these stories are in video format and just send chills up your spine as you listen to them describe what it was like to find their ancestors. I especially liked Chris Rock's interview. These sites also include lesson plans for teachers to use.
I hope this discussion gives you some ideas on how to expand on African American History Month while doing genealogy research.