Lost and Found

Mattie Franklin, from Freedman's Bank Records

Mattie Franklin, from Freedman’s Bank Records


Do you really like history?

Do you like it in an abstract sense, or when its hot breath is on your neck?

Is American history about “important people” chopping-down cherry trees, signing declarations, and declaring wars?

Or should history be about the very real, and much more numerous (and mostly forgotten) common people who did everyday things, courageous things, unspeakable things…?

Is history a grand sweeping narrative, or just a million fragmented sub-plots?  Is history about themes or moments?

And if you had a magic time machine, and could travel back to any moment or event, what would you want to see?

Would you be like the millions of tourists who visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa every year to get their photos taken beside it?

For no apparent reason other than to say “Yep, it’s leaning all right, and here’s a picture of me next to it, just in case you need a trusted reporter on the scene to confirm it.”

Or would you travel in the hope of discovering something hitherto completely unknown?

If you are more inclined to the latter, you’re in the right place.




Every single person with deep roots in colonial era America self-identifying as “white” should consider browsing the Freedman’s Bank Records which have been digitised online.

It is one thing to speak of other people as our brothers and sisters in a figurative sense.  It is quite another to come face-to-face with a document showing that an impoverished Black woman in Reconstruction Era Memphis, Tennessee was the formerly enslaved daughter of one’s own slaveholding ancestors.

As happened to me this week.

Such insanely different paths, opportunities, dangers, hopes, successes, failures, and tribulations were experienced over the intervening decades by the differently colored descendants of the very same man.

Lost brothers and sisters.

Image: record for Mattie Franklin, 1869

#weareallrelated #beforewewerewhite

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