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The Freedmen's Bureau –

Every once and a while one of those life expanding projects comes your way. For me, and alongside a remarkably good friend and advocate in cause, Director of Public Relations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Matt Ball, I was contracted to travel the United States to interview a remarkable set of individuals. A magnificent cross-section of private, political and public figures, all who through diverse in life experience, perspective and emotion, boldly stepped forward to reveal deeply intimate thoughts on their lives as they related to a united history.

Thus it is, with the warmest of gratitude. I introduce to you: The award winning “The Freedmen’s Bureau Project.”

The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized near the end of the American Civil War to assist newly freed slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia. From 1865 to 1872, and by the authority of Abraham Lincoln himself, the Bureau opened schools, managed hospitals, rationed food, provided clothing and even solemnized marriages. In the process it gathered priceless handwritten and personal information, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records on potentially 4 million African Americans. Records that, although vast, informative and healing, have been hidden and difficult to access.

To this aid FamilySearch.org, working in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and the California African American Museum is making these records available and accessible. Taking the raw records, extracting the information and indexing them in order to make them easily searchable online. An interactively expanding and publicly assessable resource, ready for anyone wishing to search their roots or contribute to opening a shared path to knowing from where we came. “The indexing of these records will allow many African Americans to create a link to their Civil War era ancestors for the first time,” said Thom Reed of FamilySearch. “This effort will bring to life the names of those who came before us. Honoring their great legacy and allowing us to connect our families past and present.

In the words of the inspired Rev. Cecil L. Murray, “When you know your background, then your foreground pretty well takes care of itself. When you know where you’re coming from then you can design where you are going.” Rev. Cecil L. Murray, John R. Tansey Chair of Christian Ethics Senior Fellow, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC Here are just 7 from the series of interviews. To find out more, or to get involved in the project, please visit The Freemen’s Bureau, www.discoverfreedmen.org

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