OHMA EXHIBITS: a collection of interactive oral history encounters

HIᏍGI (2024)

By Eric Gaither

The decennial census of 1870 has been regarded in genealogical circles as the proverbial brick wall for Black people(s) in the United States. Enslavement prior to the Civil War rendered black men, women, and children invisible. In the HIᏍGI project, descendants of a captured, enslaved common ancestor use testamentary records—“evidence of a specified fact or event” emanating from documents managed by the National Archives and the U.S. Department of the Interior—to push 100 years beyond this barrier.

HIᏍGI convenes distant, biologically related cousin-listeners and cousin-narrators for the first time to answer a question that stumped professional genealogists and the "Finding Your Roots" franchise. Who is the progenitor of the shared line of descent, and what circumstances made that possible? Stories, remembrances, and embodied DNA knowledge shared between relatives coalesce to solve a nearly 250-year old riddle about the origin of an ancestral line.

Past event: As part of the 2024 exhibition, Eric hosted a private event.

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