I’ve been thinking about how to persuade you to spend a small portion of your time volunteering to index for the Freedmen’s Bureau Project. The Freedmen’s Bureau was a government agency established to help emancipated slaves with medical care, labor disputes and education among other things. The project records contain the names of people, and crucial information about who they were, relatives, where they lived and worked to break down genealogical brick walls.

I’ve recalled inspiring speeches, the Emancipation Proclamation and the black lives matter movement.

I’ve thought about finding time in my life for what I value most and volunteerism. I know that I’m busy, but never too busy to do what’s important to me.

I’m still struggling with what I can say to persuade you to spend some of your time helping over 42 million descendants of former enslaved Americans.

I’ve remembered.

  I was 17 and standing on the cracked, clay ground of a Louisiana plantation. The November wind whipped my hair to my tear streaked cheeks, and sliced through the gaps in the boards of the former slave quarters to my right. How many people huddled together in that space for warmth during winter nights? How many people longed for a rest, a cooling breeze, or a cold drink as they worked to harvest cotton like the piece I held in my hand?

I was 11 years old, under the covers of my bed with a flashlight, past my bedtime, reading The Narrative of a Life of a Slave by Fredrick Douglas. I muffled my sobs with my pillow.  I didn’t understand the injustice that people could inflict upon one another.  I felt pain for a situation that I didn’t create, and could not change.

There are popcorn crumbs on my living room carpet.  I have at least 2 more loads of laundry to finish, so we’ll  have clean clothes to wear. Three toilets need scrubbing, and I feel overwhelmed with all of the items left undone on my to do list.

I remind myself that I made a difference this week. I spent time recording names.

Ben Wilson

Georgine Button

Moses Coleman

Alfred Dugas

and the 186 other freed men, women and children.

My house may not be clean, but my conscious is.

I chose to spend my time doing something of long term value. I preserved history.

Besides, I can always clean later… or not.

Genealogy Jen’s Challenge of the Week- Volunteer- Help us with the Freedmen Bureau Project. Your time volunteering will impact the lives of millions of people. Plus, it’s way more fun than cleaning. True story.

Bonus Points– Share this post on Facebook or Twitter with #DiscoverFreedmen

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