WE ARE FAMILY
WE ARE FAMILY
I decided to make a visit to the Family Center in Manhattan to do research on my great-great grandfather, John W. Fields, the independent slave. I had learned that the Mormon Church obtained copies of post–Civil War records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau. When the slaves were set free, the Bureau opened schools, managed hospitals, gave food and clothing and legalized marriages during the reconstruction era. By gathering the handwritten records on roughly 4 million African Americans., they captured the foot prints of those born into slavery. FamilySearch, along with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History, galvanized organizations and people worldwide to help get the files indexed and digitized.
The slave files were released in 2016, ironically when our country’s political landscape changed. There has been an increase of racial tension and civil unrest. I feel deeply that this is no coincidence. I think these files are the keys to waking up in inner strength of resilience, restoration and revitalization needed today. I believe they are the key to bridging the diversity divide and opening new lines of communication that we must have to heal old and new wounds. I have started to learn more about my ancestry, to look back to move forward. I want to inspire others to join me in this journey.
As my tour of the church and family center was coming to an end, a question popped into my head that was baffling to me. I asked Elder Adams why on earth the Mormon Church cared so much about African Americans reconnecting to their roots. Elder Adams answered very sweetly, “We believe we are all brothers and sisters in the afterlife.”