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A Landmark African-American History Project Needs Your Help

If history is indeed written by the winners, then there’s a good chance everyone else will be left out. Black people have been here since before the United States even existed, but centuries of racism have erased their stories from historical records.

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project hopes to remedy that problem. The project is a joint initiative from FamilySearch International, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the California African American Museum. By this time next year, the project will have digitized more than 1.5 million documents—but they need your help.

The organization known as the Freedmen’s Bureau was created in the 1860s to help newly freed slaves. The Bureau worked to provide black Americans with all the necessities of daily life, including schools, hospitals, food, clothing, and community. In its seven years of existence, the Bureau amassed pages and pages of hand-written records documenting the details of marriages, military service, school enrollment, loans, and medical histories of as many as 4 million Americans. These records represent a wealth of information, information that could bring modern Americans vital information about their family histories.

But these records aren’t going to digitize themselves. The project is currently enrolling volunteer archivists to help input the records’ rich data in a searchable online database. As of this writing, project members and volunteers have completed inputting information from 26 percent of 1.5 million bureau records.

“Everyone needs to know who they are,” said Diane Watson, former U.S. Representative and U.S. Ambassador, in a press release [PDF]. “They need to know something about their background. They need to know the traits that run through the lines … The Freedmen’s Project will fill in those gaps.”

For more information and to find out how to volunteer, visit discoverfreedmen.org.

Header image via Freedmen's Bureau Project.

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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