The state strengthens the preservation of the history of black people

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Racial justice protests by June 2020 found its way to the steps of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. In fact, you can find records of the protest on the archive’s own website. Presence is one step in an agency’s efforts after determining that something it believes must be said.

“The State of Alabama established this agency in 1901 to address a lack of proper government records management, but also to serve a white interest in preserving the history of the Union. South and promote the Lost Cause ideal. For more than half a century, the agency has committed to devoting resources to collecting Confederate records and artifacts while refusing to collect and preserve documents, documenting the life and contributions of the Confederacy. African-American contributions in Alabama. ”

Archive director Steve Murray wrote the memoir statement over the days surrounding the protests with the support of the archive’s board of directors.

“We know as an organization that we have resources that can be useful to the public because our core belief here is that history should be useful,” says Murray. “So we wanted to be part of the solution, but to do that, we knew we needed to acknowledge being part of the problem.”

The change effort, Murray said, dates back to the ’80s and includes the acquisition of Jim Peppler’s Black Montgomery photograph from the mid-60s, and just last year, the WSFA’s acquisition of the video archive with WBRC in the process of making donations too.

“I had an experience at the University that wasn’t your everyday experience,” said Vivian Malone Jones, the first black graduate of the University of Alabama. “There were some traumatic moments there.”

Since the disclaimer, the archives have been trying to speed up efforts to find more artifacts that reflect the Black presence in Alabama history, like the uniform of the former Greene County Sheriff’s and rancher George Washington Hall, by Mary Jones. Montgomery, and evidence of the most recent efforts on social justice.

Another key element of the repository’s efforts, one that you can join, is making some already-existing records easier to use.

“My parents are both from Bullock County, Alabama, and I’ve been there my whole life. and his grandfather was enslaved there”.

Retired Army veteran True Lewis of Kentucky, who has spent years volunteering to copy various records for archives, recently started using software to transfer his voter lists. county from 1875 to a digital format, so anyone can search for their ancestors online.

“These records go hand in hand with 1867 voter registers. And together these two records are the first, often the first state record, where we see large numbers of formerly enslaved African-American men, now recording them. their name, right? So they have chosen a surname during their post-liberation period and are registering in this government document who they are,” said Murray.

Lewis said: “It’s nice to know that I can see my grandfather’s name in black and white, he is a human being and he has the right to vote. “As a family history and genealogist, I have another year to add a timeline of my ancestors. It puts them in one place, one position. ”

And while it may not be in the archives’ plans, Murray did share some thoughts on how to navigate the discussion of critical racial theory and black history.

“We talk about what happened in the past, and in some cases, the really inhuman, inhuman ways one group of people treats another that doesn’t mean generations are alive today. must now be blamed for those actions or be held accountable for those actions, or must feel guilty. Murray said. “That is not the purpose of an honest and unambiguous exploration of these moments in the past. You know, I think all of us who have a role to play in this dialogue, K-12 educators, museums and historical institutions and the media have to really emphasize these points. that this is not to blame for people living today. “

“The point to understand these experiences that our forefathers and ancestors had is to understand the costs of not working together, to make sure that the rights guaranteed by our Constitution us and by this Democratic Republic we live in. If these have no effect, really guaranteeing everyone, there are some terrible consequences that can result from that and that is a good lesson for all of us whoever we are. ”


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