Kentucky African American Civil War Soldiers Project

No Longer Available


While doing interviews for The Reckoning radio series, it became clear just how difficult it is for most African Americans to learn the identities of their enslaved ancestors because, except in rare circumstances, government officials had left their names out of key documents, such as the Federal census. This problem was compounded by countless archives  that failed to include the names and familial relationships of  enslaved people they encountered when indexing archival documents in the decades after Emancipation. The Kentucky African American Civil War Soldiers Project aims to rectify that situation by utilizing Union Army documents available through the National Archives.  Our starting place for this project are several ledger books which document information about Kentucky’s African American soldiers, documentation which helped their enslavers file for financial reparations for the loss of their enslaved men to the war effort. There are nearly 9,000 soldiers listed in these ledgers, which can be considered a “Rosetta Stone” that unlocks previously unknown facts about not just these soldiers, but their extended family members as well. This project will disseminate these documents through a free, searchable online database, and use them as the basis for constructing family trees going as far backward and forward as possible.


Dan Gediman has had a long career as a radio journalist and documentary producer whose work has been heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, and This American Life. For many years he was the producer of the public radio series This I Believe, which inspired nine books, the first of which was a New York Times bestseller. More recently, Dan produced the Audible documentary series The Home Front: Life in America During World War II, which was narrated by Martin Sheen. Since 2019, he has been producing The Reckoning radio and podcast series, which has led to the Kentucky African American Civil War Soldiers Project, the subject of his presentation.