Shelby County Museum and Archive Slave Index Findings
SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - For decades it was a simple list of names, but now thanks to the hard work of the Shelby County Museum Staff, this list is a living history of lives from the past.
Executive Director Jennifer Maier and her colleague Bruce Cooper discovered three thousand slave names that had been recorded over time flipping through their old records.
Maier said their names need to said, but how do you say a name when you can’t find it and/or you don’t know it?
“Up until the development of this index, we had a very hard time giving them any information that they needed. As director I would hate for someone to leave this archive and not have anything that they didn’t at least know before,” Maier said. “So, when we started finding these names, we said ‘we are going to share this with the public and put it in a easy to use format.’”
With the index that Maier and Cooper created, they were able to help Albert Baker Datcher, better known as Peter, who had been looking into his family’s history for about 20 years.
Datcher thanked his grandmother and father Frank and Rachel Datcher, his great grandparents Lucy, Albert, Lewis and Louisa Baker and especially his mother and father Ruth B. Garrett and Albert (Red) Datcher for telling him the history of his family.
“My mother did this continuously even when I didn’t care,” Datcher said. “From about the age of seven or eight, she showed me pictures and told me stories that were passed down to her from our other generations.”
Datcher started taking his family’s history seriously when he saw his family’s graveyard and noticed something about Albert Bake,r who him and his father were named after.
“When I looked at his head stone, it hit me and I fell to my knees almost crying, because after being a slave for 50 years and never being paid he had purchased the land where their graves lie and a local church,” Datcher said. “We as black people, we are wrong if we can’t say the names of our people that came out of slavery, we have committed a sin.”
After furthering his knowledge, he found out more and more about his ancestors, and with the help of Maier and Cooper he was able to answer questions about his family’s past through the index.
The collection was named after Albert Baker Datcher Jr. and more information on the names found can be located here.
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