The 10 Million Names Project, based in Boston, is on a mission to uncover and compile the names of more than 10 million enslaved African Americans who were brought to the United States between 1619 and 1865.
The project seeks to address the unique challenges faced by African Americans in tracing their family histories and bring long-lost names and stories back into the light.
During the painful era of slavery in the United States, countless families were torn apart, and the identities of many enslaved individuals were lost to history. Today, this loss of records poses a challenge for African Americans seeking to connect with their roots. The 10 Million Names Project aims to rectify this by creating a comprehensive database of these forgotten names.
The project’s significance represents a critical step towards preserving the memory of those who endured the horrors of slavery and allows their descendants to reconnect with their past, bridging the gap in family histories that has persisted for generations.
Omer-Jean Winborn, President of the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society (FHWGS), which is actively participating in this initiative, shared her own experience, stating:
I started researching my family history, and oh my goodness. It just opened up a world.
Winborn, who has been researching her family tree for over two decades, highlighted the emotional and rewarding aspects of this process.
However, African American genealogy enthusiasts like Winborn and her colleagues face unique challenges due to “The Wall,” a term they use to describe the obstacles encountered when tracing their lineage beyond 1870. Prior to that year, African Americans were not counted in U.S. Census data, and as Cheryl Garnett, FHWGS VP, emphasised:
We weren’t considered people. We were cattle. That’s why the records aren’t there.
To overcome these challenges, genealogists like Garnett have had to rely on oral history passed down from older relatives. While family stories provide valuable insights into the past for some, they are not always available to everyone.
The 10 Million Names Project is a beacon of hope for those who seek to trace their African-American heritage. Kerri Greenidge, a genealogist and historian with African-American ancestors, expressed the project’s importance, saying:
We’re hoping to clear up and break that wall so people can trace their ancestors back to the original founding of what became the United States.
The project invites the public to participate by sharing any historical materials they may have, including documents, photographs, or other artefacts, which could shed light on enslaved individuals and their stories. These contributions will play a crucial role in the creation of an extensive online database, expected to be a valuable resource for anyone researching their African-American heritage.
For more information on how you can contribute to the 10 Million Names Project and share your family’s history, please visit their website at https://10millionnames.org/
- Group of African Americans: Picryl