Genealogy has been a big hit during this pandemic. Ancestory.com reports a 37% rise in web traffic since the COVID-19 crises began. You might be surprised at how easily information is available to you.
The fight to preserve history isn’t just about monuments and murals. It’s about pieces of paper.
Tamika Strong is an archiver.
“It’s just humbling to know that these people lived such rich and full lives in many cases and that their lives are captured by a single document,” said Strong.
Strong has amassed a collection of over 3,000 funeral programs from Black communities. These documents help to amplify voices that are too often silenced.
“It’s capturing the history and culture of an underrepresented group,” Strong said. “We’re having this movement now where we’re reclaiming the narratives.”
So often, we turn the lens of race on health, jobs, and opportunity, but there is also a disparity in genealogy. It’s a document desert.
Strong claims that African Americans were denied access to research institutions due to Jim Crow. This is in contrast to white Americans.
“There wasn’t a colored section for obituaries in the newspaper until about the 1920s,” she said. “The 1870 brick wall is the transitional period from when African Americans were considered individuals to the time when they were considered property.”
These bricks formed not a wall but a foundation. Strong’s collection covers Atlanta. America is home to many more.
“It’s always been my hope that people would hear about our project and, like me, be encouraged to do one for their local area. And there have been at least two other people who have expressed that interest,” Strong said.
These documents provide links to families that trace their roots. However, they also give details that portray communities.
“Despite what was going on in a national level, despite the environment that these people grew up in and lived their lives, there was still joy. They still made a life,” Strong said.
Strong said that each generation leaves something for the next generation, and this is their gift to them.
Strong says if she doesn’t keep collecting, the narrative will be lost in history.
“There is so much history that has been lost over time due to neglect, due to suppression,” said Strong. “We need these records because generations after we are going to need access to it.”