Wake County, Shaw University collaborate to unlock dozens of slave records and stories

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The historic Oak View County Park in Raleigh is a part of the fabric of North Carolina history.

However, it’s also a reminder of a cruel past. Now, the former plantation serves as a backdrop for the launch of the Enslaved Persons Project.

“What could we actually do that’s going to be meaningful that will allow students to have some experience with public humanities? Here was the perfect project,” said Dr. Valerie Johnson, dean and professor of sociology at Shaw University.

The Wake County Register of Deed’s Office and Shaw University are working together on the project. The goal is to unlock dozens of property deeds to help get a better sense of the stories of slavery.

“It was important to me that an HBCU participated in this project with us. I called Dean Johnson and she said, yes! yes,” said Tammy Brunner, Wake County Register of Deeds.

The work will consist of cataloging, transcribing and making public the records from more than 30 deed books containing bills of sale and property exchanges so many can track the history of their families.

Thursday evening, those part of the project and the community came together for a kickoff ceremony.

“Imagine seeing and reading page after page. Going through these records where folks are referred to as things and you are a descendant of the things or you may be a descendant of those who owned persons and that is not who you are or how you show up presently,” Johnson said.

“So, the healing comes with reconciling with that truth. Knowing that knowledge helps liberate us,” she explained.

Once the project is complete, they hope to have it available for the public.

“The importance is, I have a hard time putting it into words, because it is absurd that it hadn’t been done before,” Brunner said.

If you would like to help or learn more about it, click here.

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