Groups come together to claim their past through funeral programs
Genealogy has been a great success during this pandemic. Ancestory.com reports a 37% increase in web traffic since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. But did you know that the likelihood of information being readily available to you may depend on your race?
The struggle for the preservation of history is not only about monuments and wall paintings. These are pieces of paper.
Tamika Strong is an archivist.
“It’s just humbling to know that these people have lived such rich and full lives in many cases and that their lives are captured by one document,” Strong said.
Strong has assembled a collection of over 3,000 black community funeral programs. Documents amplify voices that are too often inaudible.
“It’s capturing the history and culture of an under-represented group,” Strong said. “We have this movement now where we collect the narratives. “
So often we turn the focus of race on health, jobs and opportunity, but there is a disparity in genealogy as well. It is a desert of documents.
According to Strong, because of Jim Crow, African Americans had limited access to research institutions compared to white Americans.
“There was no color section for obituaries in the newspaper until about the 1920s,” she said. “The brick wall of 1870 is the period of transition from when African Americans were viewed as individuals and when they were viewed as property. “
These bricks did not form a wall but a foundation. Strong’s collection covers Atlanta. Many more fill America.
“I have always hoped that people would hear about our project and, like me, would be encouraged to make one for their region. And there have been at least two other people who have expressed that interest, ”Strong said.
The documents contain links for families tracing their roots, but they also provide details that paint portraits of communities.
“Despite what was happening nationally, despite the environment in which these people grew up and lived, there was always joy. They still made a living, ”Strong said.
She says every generation is trying to leave something good for the next generation and this is our gift to the next generation.
Strong says if she doesn’t continue to collect, the tale will be lost in the story.
“There is so much history that has been lost over time through neglect, through deletion,” Strong said. “We need these documents because generations later we will need to access them.”