Millions Of Names Were Lost During Slavery. Their Mission Is To Recover Them.

illustration of enslaved persons running away in a forest
Graciella Ye'Tsunami
September 18, 2023

Our names hold power. Our ancestors took naming ceremonies very seriously.

However, traditional African names were stripped from our enslaved ancestors who were forced by enslavers to adopt European names.

Rarely were these names documented outside of runaway posters and sales ledgers. But there were instances where our ancestors resisted this erasure.

Knowing her daughter was being sold, an enslaved woman named Rose filled a sack with fabric, pecans, a lock of hair, and “her love,” and bestowed it to her daughter Ashley

The sack was passed down until one of Ashley’s descendants embroidered the sack with their family story, and in doing so preserved their names. The sack is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.

Another example can be found within Zora Neale Hurston’s “Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.” Hurston interviewed Oluale Kossola, the last survivor of the Clotilda slave ship. 

Kossola was enslaved at 19 and renamed “Cudjo Lewis.” Hurston’s work preserved his story and reclaimed his name.

Today, a project titled 10 Million Names is on a mission to recover the names of all who were enslaved within the US. 

Anti-Blackness wants us to believe our history has been buried because it knows knowledge is power. The reality is our history is very much ALIVE and wanting to be unearthed.