Updated: Feb 27
Grant is one of 83 distributed statewide by the Alabama Humanities Alliance to help cultural organizations bounce back from the pandemic.
[COLUMBIANA | MAY 2, 2022] The Shelby County Historical Society, Inc. has earned a $7,500 competitive Alabama Humanities Recovery Grant from the Alabama Humanities Alliance. This award will help increase awareness of the creation an index of enslaved individuals in Shelby Count prior to emancipation. The index, which contains over 5,000 names, was a large project that we started in 2018 as a result of our multi-year archive digitization project. Bruce Cooper, the research assistant for the Shelby County Museum & Archives, was assigned to document these names using a searchable format. The result was an index that has been viewed worldwide and has assisted many people of color to locate their Shelby County enslaved ancestors. The collection is named the Albert Baker Datcher, Jr. Enslaved Peoples Index, in honor of SCHS, Inc. board member Albert Datcher, who is descended from slaves in Harpersvilole, AL.
The index has already garnered international attention and has helped people of color worldwide learn about their enslaved ancestors living in Shelby County, Alabama, before emancipation.
"Undeniably, the black population has more difficulty tracing their ancestry, especially before the 1870 census, when enslaved people were considered property," said Jennifer Maier, Executive director of the Shelby County Museum & Archives. "Wills, deed books, and estate papers are often the only records available, but they remain challenging to find. Black people have to do double the work because they must follow a paper trail of ownership, unlike white people who do not face the same challenges. Our enslaved individual index has the playing field and allows for easily researchable records that are viewable to anyone with internet access. Black people will become more engaged with their history if we can remove barriers standing in their way."
Funding from the Alabama Humanities Alliance has helped publicize the availability of this index. It has helped the Shelby County Historical Society, Inc. and the Shelby County Museum & Archives fulfill their purpose of making history accessible to all, no matter the color of a person's skin.
The Shelby County Historical Society, which owns and operates the Shelby County Museum & Archives, is one of 83 organizations to receive an Alabama Humanities Alliance grant this September. In all, the Alabama Humanities Alliance is distributing $800,000 to help cultural nonprofits recover from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alabama Humanities Recovery Grants are funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. These grants were made available to Alabama-based nonprofits with a demonstrated commitment to public humanities programming. Grantees include community cornerstones such as museums, libraries, archives, historic sites and more.
“AHA’s recovery grants will help humanities-focused organizations thrive beyond the pandemic,” says Chuck Holmes, AHA’s executive director. “Robust cultural organizations make Alabama a richer, smarter and more vibrant place to live and learn. These grants will sustain the humanities in our communities and contribute to the state’s economic recovery in the months ahead.”
To access the index, please visit https://www.shelbycountyhistory.com/datcher-collection/datcher-collection.
About The Shelby County Historical Society:
The Shelby County Historical Society, Inc., is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization, is dedicated to the discovery, collection, and preservation of all things related to the history of Shelby County Alabama; to the encouragement, promotion, and sponsorship of historical research and the public dissemination of that research; to the acquisition of physical artifacts and documents and provision of their public display; and to the presentation of educational programs and other activities for our citizens and visitors about our past history and our heritage.
About the Alabama Humanities Alliance
The Alabama Humanities Alliance is a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Our mission is to foster learning, understanding and appreciation of Alabama’s people, communities and cultures. The ultimate goal: To use the humanities to bring Alabamians together and make our state a better place to live. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.
Note: Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed by grant recipients do not necessarily represent those of the Alabama Humanities Alliance or the National Endowment for the Humanities.