The quest to find the Louisiana 16

As promised, I intend to keep interested followers fully informed, but first things first. There is a plan to the research and mechanisms for communicating not only with you, but others who may hold clues to the yet unanswered questions. In addition, there will be periodic reports that will guide the reader to a better understanding of what transpired and why. I must confess that what I share with you will not be the whole story. You will have to wait for the book.

The research project will require hundreds of hours, lodging and travel to multiple states, and where it can be afforded, assistance from other researchers. You may be wondering how an individual on their own can swing that level of expense. I assure you I am not independently wealthy and not being a 501c 3 entity, I am not eligible for most grants.

I called on my background in non-profit management and consulted colleagues and Internet sites that advise non-profits. The industry, painfully aware of the glut of non-profits, advocates for a different solution: a collaborative partnership between an individual and an existing charitable organization who share a similar mission. The premise is that the individual can support and advance the work of the organization and the organization offers the 501c 3 status to the individual’s fundraising efforts. There are number of details included in a written agreement but suffice it to say, it is a win-win for all participants.

I am pleased to report that the Orange County African American Historical Society (OCAAHS) and I have formed the recommended partnership. I am more than grateful for their support and you will see them in all blogs as sponsors. Because of them, I now have three additional sponsors and am seeking a few more.

The narrative of the Louisiana 16 is not just a good tale but is filled with lesser or unknown realities regarding such matters as the failing agricultural economy in the upper South; the obscene growth of both breeding and selling human beings as a burgeoning economy; the manner by which an estimated 500,000 enslaved people were involuntarily transplanted from Virginia to the sugar and cotton plantations of the deep South; their subsequent lives and the lives of their enslavers as well as the laws that governed the absence of freedom. And to keep the pages turning, you can be assured of mystery, intrigue, adventure and even a bit of romance.

Yes, I am driven to explore, document and share their stories in part to enlighten those who are unaware and encourage others to investigate further. However, there is something else: if there is the slightest chance of reuniting living descendants with formerly lost ancestral lives, it must be pursued!

The endeavor demands aggressive and consistent collaboration. I am appreciative of Montpelier’s earlier support, the partnership of the OCAAHS, the sponsors already on board, the new friends in Louisiana ready to assist when I arrive, and the numerous colleagues who have enthusiastically steered me to awaiting opportunities.

The offsite research has begun: determining issues that need to be addressed, identifying new repositories, and scheduling field work and interviews. I will be driving the overland route believed to have been walked by those forced to leave their home, friends and family at Montpelier to work in the fields of Louisiana: stopping in Knoxville, Nashville, Tenn. and Natchez, Miss. Each stop will provide me with a better understanding of this more than 1,000-mile journey and perhaps, include a few informative interviews.

There is another journey to be undertaken: the one that the buyer and his new bride took about the same time, from the same area of Virginia and to the same final location, while enjoying a significantly different route. The young bride, Lucy was also leaving her home, family and friends but for very different reasons.

Your support is greatly appreciated and there are a multitude of ways you can participate: follow the journey on the website now under construction; wish me well or offer an idea with a note, email or call; and if you are able to offer a monetary donation, please endorse to OCAAHS with African American Descendant’s Quest (AADQ) in the memo line and mail to 130 Caroline St. Orange, VA 22960.

Until next week, be well.

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