February 27, 2021

Researchers Building Database of African American Civil War Soldiers

From New York University:

A team of researchers has launched a project that is working to put online records of the United States Colored Troops—regiments of African American soldiers that included large numbers of men who had been slaves at the start of the Civil War.

The effort, which includes historians, social scientists, and the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, will produce an electronic archive chronicling an overlooked force in the shaping of American history—one that will document their lives before and after the war, shedding new light on life in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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The National Archives is in the process of posting facsimiles of soldiers’ individual records online, but these discrete documents are not searchable, making broad historic analyses a challenge.

However, the research team, led by NYU doctoral student John Clegg, is taking advantage of these newly available facsimiles and recruiting volunteers to convert static records into an electronic, searchable database—they are transcribing the contents of thousands of personnel and pension records from the Civil War, which also include marriages, children, and residencies, among other data, that are gradually forming the African American Civil War Soldiers database.

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Clegg and his colleagues, who include University of Georgia Professor Scott Nesbit, University of Chicago Professor Michael Weaver, and City University of New York doctoral student Danny Colligan, add that the database will enhance our understanding of not only military history, but also of migration patterns, slavery, and Reconstruction.

The completed database will be presented on the website of the African American Civil War Museum.

Read the Complete Project Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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