Several Cumberland County organizations are helping to tell the story of the county through the Freedmen’s Office Transcription Project.
The Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project is an effort to transcribe the Freedmen’s Bureau archives. The office was a government department tasked with supporting those previously enslaved in their transition to freedom and citizenship, according to a press release from the Cumberland County Library.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institute worked with the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission and the State Library of North Carolina to bring to light a hidden part of history in the Freedmen’s Bureau, officially known under the name Bureau of Refugees, Freedoms and abandoned lands, the statement read.
The Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville State University, and Cumberland County Schools help transcribe county information.
According to Michelle Gross, manager of the Spring Lake Community Branch, the Cumberland County Public Library joined the project to share the story of the county’s past.
“A lot of the recordings we are transcribing actually relate to residents of Cumberland County at that time,” she said. “I really wanted to help spread awareness of this project and help people who might get stuck trying to do their genealogy or learn more about this area during this time.”
Jonathan Frantz, social studies curriculum specialist for the school system, said he had briefed teachers on the project. Among those who participated, a teacher decided to include his students. On May 1, students from Westover High School contributed to the initiative.
“The students who participated reported that being able to read these materials and transcribe them really gave them insight into the story that you don’t get otherwise,” said Franz.
Frantz said he hoped to build on the initial effort and allow more students to experience what it means to participate in the project.
“The students were blown away,” he said. “The feedback I received from teachers and students was just amazing.”
Frantz added that for the students, the story went from a boring lecture to astonishment at seeing people’s real lives at that time.
In conjunction with the County Library, FSU organizes virtual transcription events.
“We have a team that is helping coordinate planning for the event,” said Teresa Thompson-Pinckney, assistant vice chancellor for student access and success at FSU, in an email. “In addition, we involve faculty, staff and students in the project by serving as transcriptionists. We also provide the facilitator for the youth session to virtual transcript-a-thon to train and engage participating high school students.
There is a strong connection between the university and the Freedmen’s Bureau, according to Thompson-Pinckney.
“Our institution started with seven men who had a vision, and the Freedoms Office helped make their dreams come true,” she said. “The Freedoms Office was responsible for erecting African American educational institutions during this period to include the Howard School of Fayetteville, founded in 1867, now known as Fayetteville State University.
Thompson-Pinckney added that FSU is the only HBCU to be part of the collaboration.
“The opportunity for our students, staff and faculty to participate in the digital delivery of historical documents is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to magnify our university’s legacy and understand the little bits of history captured in the transcripts, which magnifies the big picture of what historically happened in our region.”
Participation in the project will be open to all residents of Cumberland County next month. The County Library will host events and invite the public to help virtually transcribe Cumberland County documents on June 14 and 16 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with another event on July 13 at the same time, the statement said. . To register for an event, send an email to [email protected]
Writer Akira Kyles can be contacted at [email protected]
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