InformationWanted.org

During the course of America’s painful and mournful history with slavery, against their will (as most things were… sigh), mothers and fathers were separated from their children, wives were snatched from the arms of their husbands, and siblings said goodbye to siblings… wondering if they’d all ever see one another again. Humans traded as property, from owner to owner, plantation to plantation. Again and again and again.

Have you ever thought about what happened to the now-freed families AFTER Emancipation?

Until I stumbled upon InformationWanted.org, I hadn’t. 

This beautiful project coming out of Villanova University has given names to the individuals on an often life-long quest to find their freed loved ones. On the site, copies of actual ads placed in newspapers in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s are posted. Each ad is concise and to the point, but it’s hard to read them without feeling the emotions of desperation, longing, and loss.

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I encourage all to check this site out.
(You can even help transcribe the ads as they’re placed on the site to aid in further genealogical research.)

It’s important for us to remember another crushing impact of our dark history of oppression and injustice against people of color.

May we see their humanity by saying their names, and may we stay ever vigilant today as slavery continues to reinvent itself under new labels and clever packaging.

#OurHistory
#StayWoke

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Recreated & Relabeled

When did slavery in America end?

Just months ago I would’ve given a quick answer to that question. In my ignorance I certainly wouldn’t have known the date off the top of my head, and if I were able to do a quick Google search under the table without you knowing, I’d eventually come back with 1865.

“Yes, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was put into play.”

But today if we were having that conversation, I would hesitate a lot more, and I’d probably respond with some kind of hat-tip to the loaded nature of your question. After some conversation and back and forth, eventually, I’d just flat out tell you IT NEVER ENDED; that through the years slavery has just been recreated and relabeled in different forms.

Hopefully we’d still be talking.

Quite frankly, I’m hoping you’re still reading.

For me, I’ve grown up and lived with a lot of assumptions. But those assumptions have proven to be misrepresentations, and they have now in turn transformed into convictions deep in my soul. You know as well as I do- when a conviction is embedded deep enough inside you, you just have to share it. Even if nobody will listen.

Some have asked why I’m writing these posts. They think I’m trying to convince them of something. I’m really not.

In fact I think the following quote is most accurate to my heart in these posts:

“Sometimes I speak up because I think it might actually change the world. Other times, I speak up simply to keep the world from changing me.”

I know we’re only a couple days into this month, but I appreciate you taking this journey with me. Please keep reading. The posts coming up are about to get even darker, but we must remember the wrongs of our past lest we repeat them in our future.

#OurHistory

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Abraham Lincoln & Emancipation

One of the things I appreciate most about history is the complex nature of the characters involved. When we study history in school, we often only retain the “highlight reel moments” that still today ripple from a person’s legacy, while missing some of the important backstory that made those moments happen.

Abraham Lincoln is a great example of this.

To most people, Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator because of the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect on January 1, 1863. Of course, this was a pivotal moment in his leadership and in the African-American experience. However, even though he always hated slavery, his views on African-Americans and their role in society certainly evolved over the course of his political career.

Similar to the hot-button political issues of our day today, the solutions are easy and simple from our couch as private citizens, but considerably more complex as an elected official. Once emancipated, the questions of what to do with former slaves were not simple, and some of Lincoln’s early answers to these questions were frankly shameful from our perspective today.

– Throughout his career, he was often at odds with abolitionists, moving too slow in producing change. They called for an immediate end to slavery and for freed slaves to be incorporated as equal members of society. Instead, Lincoln advocated for a more gradual phasing-out process.

– For well over a decade, Lincoln felt that the best way to confront the problem of slavery was colonization: the idea that a majority of the African-American population should be asked or required to leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America. The thought process here came from seeing no way that blacks and whites could live together peaceably.

– In 1861-1862, Lincoln pushed a variety of plans to compensate slave owners in return for their slaves’ emancipation. Aside from the District of Columbia, it got shot down at the State level and was never enacted.

As I looked into all this further, I gained a ton of admiration for Lincoln in this: he listened and changed!

As he edited the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation in August of 1862, Lincoln opened the White House to a delegation of freed slaves in the hopes of getting their buy-in on a plan for colonization. However, this sparked a new level of frustration among black leaders and abolitionists, who argued that African-Americans were as much natives of the country as whites, and thus deserved equal rights. Slaves and slave-owners alike resisted the idea of colonization (for different reasons, as you can imagine). Furthermore, a shift in Lincoln’s thinking occurred when he saw the high numbers of freed slaves leaving plantations and crossing Union lines to suit up in military uniforms and fight against the South. He figured since they put their lives on the line, they had placed a significant and personal stake in our nation.

The preliminary version of the Proclamation was published a month later on September 22, 1862, and it looked very different from his other public policies up to this point. Eric Foner, history professor at Columbia University and author of The Fiery Trial, explains Lincoln’s change of heart: “The Emancipation Proclamation completely repudiates all of those previous ideas for Lincoln. [The abolishment of slavery is] immediate, not gradual. There is no mention of compensation and there is nothing in it about colonization. After the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln says nothing publicly about colonization.”

What could this mean for us today?

I see at least two things…

1. It’s easy to view those in authority over us from a negative and fatalistic perspective. Ie. “That’s the way they’ve been, that’s the way they are, and that’s the way they’ll always be.” This narrative reminds me that the thought processes of ANY person in any position can change with time.

2. As people of faith, we should be voices of reason and compassion among the chaos of well-meaning but sometimes misguided leaders. When we see injustice do we speak up? Do we put pressure on our elected officials when we see our fellow man hurting as a result of public policy? There’s a way to do this that is both aggresssive and respectful, and people who want to influence change need to figure that tension out. Again, we have a responsibility to find a way to do it respectfully, but remaining silent about issues that matter is not an option. Can you imagine all that our nation would have lost if the colonization plan went forward?

#OurHistory 

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January 1st… 1863

On New Year’s Eve, 154 years ago, people of color, both slave and free, came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the promised Emancipation Proclamation had in fact become law. At the stroke of midnight, on January 1, all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God. As we celebrate the end of 2016, may we today also celebrate a moment in history when we as a people moved closer towards justice and equality for all. Even today, may we see all other men as brothers and all other women as sisters. #HappyNewYear

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