On the last day of Volunteer Appreciation Month, I wanted to take the time to express my appreciation for a particular set of volunteers for our nonprofit: the 32 high school students who are working to transcribe an 1867 historical Howard County record that historians such as myself rely heavily upon to do the work we do in and for the county.
The students are spread out between two county high schools (Atholton and Howard), and I gave a virtual presentation to a group of students a few weeks ago to introduce them to what we do, what the record shows, how people like me use it, and how their help will help the county and researchers. One of the teachers wrote to send their appreciation for helping their students be part of local history, and another expressed that their students were excited (which excited ME to learn since students don’t always get excited about HISTORY).
This is a joint initiative between our nonprofit and the Maryland State Archives (which I thank for their assistance and resources), and while I could have had adults or colleagues do the work, it was my preference to engage the next generation in this local history. I wanted it to be HCC students, or HCPSS students. Transcribing helps to make them searchable, and EASILY findable for researchers both in and outside of the county. As many have heard me say, I want ALL of the info from the time period we focus on (slavery-pre 1930) to live freely online, so that it can be accessed with absolutely NO impediments, no needed registrations, and no restrictions whatsoever. Phase 1 is the transcription work, which will be followed by teaching them to how to trace a person of their choice from that record. This will help our nonprofit’s goal of attempting to trace the entire community of free and enslaved Blacks and Mulattos who lived in the county…to see where they went over time (stayed or moved away).
Just for today, I wanted to personally acknowledge these students as they persevere through the deciphering of 1867 HANDWRITING (which was probably a shock all its own!) When we finish, I’ll provide info to the community about the project along with feedback from the students. I can’t wait for you to see! The record represents the first time that enslaved county ancestors were named in a compiled government record/list. The work it takes to put together the sorts of stories that some of you have read from my local history posts, is made harder by the time it takes to sort through records in which the names of people weren’t used. I rely on many types of records, most are at the Maryland State Archives, but this one is particularly symbolic and it was time it be made searchable. Please join me in thanking the students for their service..
P.S. I found an opinion piece in Atholton’s student newspaper that I wanted to share. Written this past Black History Month by a student, it was great to see what some students had to say about history. Our local county history has many ordinary extraordinary people who helped to build and maintain many of the historic structures that we still see and some people glorify today. I can’t tell you if the students in this article are on the current transcription team or not (privacy), but I think their generation has an interest that warms my team’s heart to see! I’m sure Howard HS has thoughts, but I couldn’t find it easily in their newsletters.