It is our vision that this research work should be done primarily by African Americans from Kentucky, especially students from local colleges and universities, and that they be paid generously for their work. It is also our vision that the fruits of this research should be freely available to the public into perpetuity, with no paywalls to inhibit access. We also plan to upload our work when completed to archive.org, which is perpetually endowed to preserve digital information.
We are beginning this project by researching the lives of approximately 750 soldiers from nine counties that surround Louisville, going as far back in time as possible through slave schedules, wills, and estate settlements, and as far forward in time as possible, through pension documents, census data, newspapers, and other resources, to create a set of primary source documents for each man and his family, coupled with a detailed family tree. The results of all this research will be published on our website and will serve as a vivid demonstration of the power of this overall project.
Our eventual goal is to document the lives of all 23,700 African American soldiers who enlisted in the Union Army from Kentucky. According to researchers, for each soldier who had children, there could be 1,700 descendants today. If that is so, this project has the potential to benefit over 40 million African Americans nationwide. To that end, we intend to place family trees for these soldiers on the free genealogical website FamilySearch.org, so that it is available to any descendant that has been actively seeking to learn the identity of their ancestors.
In addition to the African American community, we believe this project could also benefit scholars researching various aspects of slavery and the African American experience, as well as K-12 educators and their students seeking to integrate primary source documents into their study of American history, especially around slavery, the Civil War, and the Jim Crow era. To meet those needs, we intend to engage with curriculum developers to create educational curricula around the soldiers’ stories, along the lines of what we have already done with oral histories of the enslaved
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation of any amount to support this project, please go to our donation page
To learn more about the project, you can watch a presentation about the project
that was done for the Filson Historical Society in Louisville.