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AfriGeneas Slave Research Forum

Re: "Ownership" of and access to slave data /recor

Hi Afi,

I don't mean that archivists must spend all their time looking for slave descendants - but they do need to catalog the documents they have with appropriate keywords - and make that information readily available to those people who are interested - in many cases documents relating to slavery in collections are not - I didn't find the document - it was buried away, and found by Lloyd Smith (bless you Lloyd). We're discussing priorities here - decisions are made about allocation of funding - libraries have limited funding - and though many now have webpages and electronic catalogs - someone makes decisions about what gets cataloged/photocopied/transcribed/promoted.

I have seen indexes - with descriptions of papers, that convieniently leave out the mention of the fact that certain documents contain data on slaves - I've seen indexes of wills that don't mention that the will in question freed or transferred slaves - but do mention other items - paintings, land, other property.

Things are changing - slowly - due to pressure from many folks - like the researchers here at Afrigeneas - and historians who have focused on slavery - but we still have a long way to go.

Many professional genealogists - who regularly publish data gleaned from county records and local collections still don't include the slave information they run across in those same documents.

I'm very grateful that the person who publishes on Loudoun County VA most frequently has been meticulous in her documentation of all slave records she comes across - but the work in a nearby county is the opposite.

It would be wonderful if all of us had the resources to travel - and visit libraries and sit for days going through private collections - but we don't. Given the state of modern technology - letters/records/ can be electronically made available much more readily these days - but there are people who make choices about what is selected to be accessed publicly. Large genealogy services with access to vast collections rarely decide to copy/transcribe and make available data that exists - about our ancestors.

We have made steps forward - the AA census cd is a notable advance - and Freedman's bank records - to name two off the top of my head - but we have a long way to go.

Afrigeneas demonstrates each day - with the number of hits it gets - that there is interest in researching black roots - and the credit has to go to folks here - for being the vanguard in the struggle to uncover the past - and for raising the conciousness of other organizations who deal with databases. But we still have a long way to go.

One of my students pointed out that our University libray offers PDF documents from many early newspapers, but that the only ones not available in that format - and not even available on microfilm in our large well funded libray are from the African-American press.
Thankfully - due to pressure from black student activists, and scholars a few years back - the Sojourner Truth papers are indexed.

I don't agree with the hypothetical situation you have posited - simply because if a white supremacist group decides to use a photo -I doubt very much that they care one way or another about copyright violations - given that they don't give a hoot about committing murder, arson, rape and terror.

Sorry if I sounded cranky - when I posted - I was :)
As a scholar - I'm meticulous about citing sources - obtaining permissions etc. But I'm also aware that had I not called (long distance) the head of the library in question - and identified my self as a university professor the answer to my email inquiry for permission to cite - and webpublish a trancript may have been a long time coming.


: Denise, I disagree with you on at least one point.
: I don't think its the job of a librarian or archivist to find the
: "unidentified slaves" standing in a photograph.
: That's our job.
: I think that the libraries and archives are supposed to make the
: material available to the public, and to insure the material
: isn't used for commercial gain. Just the fact that you found the
: material shows they are doing their job.

: As for copyright, I've got a hypothetical situation? Suppose the
: material were freely available. Suppose a some white supremacist
: lifted a photograph of slaves from an archive website and used
: it as part of a racist logo? Then produced T-shirts bearing that
: logo and sold the shirts?

: How would you feel then?

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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