The 10 Million Names Project from American Ancestors is designed to create a database of names and stories of Black people who were enslaved in the United States before 1865, the year the Civil War edned. .
“Before roughly the mid-20th century, data about enslaved Africans and their descendants was really hard to locate. It was often obscured or erased or difficult to find,” Kendra Field, the project’s chief historian, told ABC News. “During that same period, descendants from, say, Mayflower, had access to a whole different set of tools and documents.”
According to its website, the project aims to collect information through a network of genealogists, historians, cultural organizations, and descendant communities. The project’s intention is to create a document-based research database to amplify the voices and stories of people who have been trying to archive their family stories for centuries.
The project estimates that the 10 million people who were enslaved between the 16th century and the Civil War have around 44 million descendants who were separated forcibly from their family histories by slavery.
The project’s advisory board features Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the popular PBS show Finding Your Roots which has popularized a new frenzy of genealogy research. Joining Gates are Paula Williams Madison, Gwill York, Richard Cellini, Kendra Field, and Supreme Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who serves in an honorary role on the board.
What laid the foundation for this initiative was the research from American Ancestors that proved Georgetown University sold enslaved people.
“Our collaboration with Richard Cellini on the Georgetown Memory Project served as a model and launch pad for 10 Million Names,” said Ryan Woods, the executive vice president and chief operating officer for American Ancestors, in a press release. “The work done on the Georgetown project demonstrated we could apply a different methodology to help more Americans of African descent recover their family history before 1870—which is often difficult.”
ABC News will be the project’s exclusive media partner. Over the course of a year, the network will feature programming featuring the finding and research from the job as well as “impactful and informative storytelling and reporting” across all of ABC’s platforms.
The public has already been invited to explore the website, where a number of resources are available, and more will be added regularly. In addition, the site encourages visitors to submit original family materials like family trees, copies of diaries or records, bible records, or interviews with family members to help build the database.
“ABC News is proud to be the exclusive media partner on this historic project to tell the untold stories of familial histories that have been a mystery until now, and we are looking forward to serving our audiences with straightforward reporting that shines a light on this chapter in American history,” said Kim Godwin, ABC News president.