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WE ARE FAMILY

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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 digitized the footprints 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.

As my tour of the church and family center was coming to an end, I asked Elder Adams why on earth the Mormon Church cared so much about African Americans reconnecting to their roots.  As Elder Adams and I walked down the corridor of the family center together, he looked over at me and answered very sweetly, “We believe we are all brothers and sisters in the afterlife.” 

It was at that moment that my hunch was confirmed. The slave files were released in 2016, 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. The slave files are an invitation to heal and tap into our inner strength of resilience - like a sleeping giant - deep within.

Kim Bettie