How American Descendants of Slavery Are Connecting With Their Roots

Slave Ship

Check out DESCENDANTS, a Washington Post series about African-Americans searching for their roots.  Here is a description:

For many Americans, blended ancestry is an integral part of their identity. The mosaic of hyphenated heritages preserves cultural connections beyond the United States, lineages that build pride and a sense of belonging. But for Americans descended from enslaved Africans, the roots of their ancestry are often a mystery. Family trees go dark after five or six generations, a reminder that 150 years ago, black people weren’t considered people.

Genealogists refer to this as “the brick wall,” an obstruction in African American lineage that dates to 1870 when the federal Census began recording African descendants — 250 years after they were first hauled in chains to what would become the United States.

Before then, their lives existed on paper only as another person’s property. To penetrate the brick wall, black Americans frequently must rely on the names of their ancestors’ owners.

“You can find them through [their owners’] tax records, estate records, slave schedules and wills,” said Mary Elliott, the “Slavery and Freedom” curator for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Even after abolition, the black experience has fallen victim to campaigns that obscure the darkest parts of the American story, diminishing African Americans’ connections to their pasts and warping the collective memory of the nation’s history.

But in recent years, black Americans have pursued new efforts to uncover their stories. From exploring sunken vessels of the Middle Passage to reconstructing museum exhibits that chronicle slavery, African Americans are breaking down the barriers that separate them from their ancestors and reconnecting with a lineage once lost.

There are four video episodes:

Episode 1: “America’s Last Known Slave Ship”

Episode 2: “Diving With a Purpose”

Episode 3: “The Genetics of Race”

Episode 4: “The Lost Cause”

Learn more here.