Viewers asked to help transcribe post-Civil War era documents for The Freedmen’s Bureau Project
Initiative commemorates the television event series “Roots” premiering Memorial Day 2016
To commemorate the upcoming premiere of its epic television event series “Roots,” HISTORY® is launching a campaign to support The Freedmen’s Bureau Project, which helps African American families reconnect with their ancestors. The social initiative, “Reading for Roots,” is a call to action to encourage viewers to volunteer to transcribe post-Civil War documents, and is a partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and FamilySearch International.
Following the Civil War and the emancipation of nearly 4 million enslaved people, The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to assist newly freed slaves transition to citizenship, providing food, housing, education, medical care and more. In the process, The Freedmen’s Bureau gathered handwritten, personal information including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records. For the first time in US history, the names of these individuals were recorded and preserved.
Today, The Freedmen’s Bureau Project, launched by FamilySearch International, and its volunteers are transcribing this handwritten information from digitized records that document the lives of formerly enslaved individuals to rediscover their powerful stories. These records will be used to create a searchable digital archive that will be housed at the NMAAHC, opening on September 24, 2016, and that will be accessible at FamilySearch.org.
Viewers interested in volunteering to transcribe documents through “Reading for Roots” can go to http://history.com/readingforroots to begin. The “Reading for Roots” website was built and designed by agency 360i.
“We are very pleased to partner with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and FamilySearch International to support the digitization of The Freedmen’s Bureau records,” said Elizabeth Luciano, Vice President, Marketing and Brand Strategy for HISTORY. “At its heart, ‘Roots’ is a powerful story about the importance of heritage and identity, and we believe there is no better way to honor the spirit of this story than to help African-American families connect with their own family heritage by supporting The Freedmen’s Bureau Project.”
“The National Museum of African American History and Culture embraces the opportunity to partner with HISTORY and FamilySearch International as we explore American history through the lens of an African American family as depicted in “Roots,” said Hollis Gentry, Genealogy Specialist at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. “We invite and encourage viewers to help us transcribe records of the Freedmen’s Bureau and make them freely available to an audience of global researchers. These records contain intriguing details that may assist researchers, like members of the Haley family, with confirming parts of existing oral traditions or in creating powerful new stories about their ancestry.”
“By teaming up with HISTORY to transcribe Freedman’s Bureau records, we are identifying the names of former ‘nameless’ slaves. When we re-discover their identities and their heritage, the forgotten become remembered. These valuable records will be searchable on FamilySearch.org and preserved for generations at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture,” said Stephen T. Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International.
“Roots” premieres on HISTORY on Memorial Day, airing over four consecutive nights at 9 p.m. beginning Monday, May 30. The eight-hour event series is a historical portrait of American slavery recounting the journey of one family and their will to survive and ultimately carry on their legacy despite hardship.
The stellar cast includes Academy Award® winners Forest Whitaker (“Fiddler”) and Anna Paquin (“Nancy Holt”); Academy Award® nominee and Emmy Award® winner Laurence Fishburne (“Alex Haley”); Golden Globe Award® winning and Emmy Award® nominated actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“Tom Lea”); Tony Award® winner Anika Noni Rose (“Kizzy”); Grammy Award® winner Tip “T.I.” Harris (“Cyrus”); Chad L. Coleman (“Mingo”); Emayatzy Corinealdi (“Belle”); Matthew Goode (“Dr. William Waller”); Derek Luke (“Silla Ba Dibba”); Mekhi Phifer (“Jerusalem”); James Purefoy (“John Waller”); Erica Tazel (“Matilda”) and introduces Regé-Jean Page (“Chicken George”) and Malachi Kirby (“Kunta Kinte”).
“Roots” is an A+E Studios production in association with Marc Toberoff and The Wolper Organization, the company that produced the original “Roots.” Will Packer, Marc Toberoff, Mark Wolper, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Barry Jossen serve as executive producers. LeVar Burton and Korin D. Huggins are co-executive producers. Questlove is executive music producer. “Roots” is directed by Phillip Noyce, Mario Van Peebles, Thomas Carter and Bruce Beresford. Arturo Interian and Michael
Stiller serve as Executives in Charge of Production for HISTORY. A+E Networks handles international distribution for “Roots.”