Ann Neel, my “linked descendant, has done a great job of explaining our historical connection. We are also great friends and Ann has also been an important academic mentor in my life for more than 20 years. Even so, I can vividly recall (after learning of our connection) when friendship was a tough pill for me to swallow. I once wrote in a poem, “Dear God, please don’t make me suffer a friendship. Why must any part of this feel good. Reconcile, beckon my ancestors from the past, untangle, advance. How goes the soul and its dignified plan.” I bring this up to say that I think it’s important for us to recognize the many places and spaces on the continuum to understanding and reconciliation. Sometimes I think reconciliation comes too quickly, hurdling over historic harms, present day inequalities, and buried rage.
Beyond this, I am a planning and research consultant for nonprofits and also a returning graduate student in history at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, presently living in DC finishing up an internship at the National Archives, where I have been conducting research and preservation advocacy related to the loose bundled (unbound) county court records that are deteriorating in the backrooms of courthouses across the country. I have used these records dating to the mid 1700s, some earlier. They contain important slavery related data. For example, I’ve found hiring out records and bills of sale for my some of my ancestors). In 2008 Congress passed, unfunded, a little known law that has yet to be implemented to preserve slavery, emancipation, and post-Civil War Reconstruction records. I am trying to re-invigorate this effort and I hope to add a blog post on the subject and its relevance for connected descendants in the future.