Here’s the scene. A woman in her office, a cat asleep on a rocker next to her, a space heater staving off the breeze coming through the window. The sounds of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech match-up coming through the door. It’s 10:30pm, and the only lights in the house are the TV and the lamp by her desk. She’s buried in research.
She is happy.
This was me last night pouring through pages and pages of a 194 year old diary and a (pretty poor) doctoral dissertation looking for slave names and ages. I’m piecing these things together – a birth date here. A Census listing there. A story about a runaway that I might be able to find in a newspaper later. The reprimand three men got for trying to kill the master’s hog on Christmas Eve in 1817. Bits and pieces of story.
This is not easy work, either in terms of research or psychology. I get so mad sometimes. Why don’t we have the full names of these people? Why is it to easy to find my family’s genealogy on Ancestry and almost impossible to find anything on these people, even though I can pull together generations of identity? I know the obvious answers – slavery, lack of education, disrespect, subjugation, racism. But still I am so sad that these people have no voice.
So I am not happy, entirely. I love the research, and hate the situation that makes it necessary.
Today, as I begin to pull together more names and search out more information, as I watch the snow and ice fall outside, I will speak their names into the wind and hear my voice carry to their silent whispers. “I know you were here. I will find you.”