The ‘Unknown Project’ aims to help Black people track their lineage

IDEAS x-Lab is searching for the names, stories and locations of Black people who were enslaved in Kentucky to help Black people find their identities.
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 6:33 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - In a mission to find the “Unknown,” IDEAS x-Lab partnered with the City of Louisville and the Frazier Museum to search for the names, stories and locations of Black people who were enslaved in Kentucky.

The project is called the Unknown Project, and its goal is to help Black people find their identities and track their lineage.

The thing about Black History is that a lot of Black people in America don’t know their history.

For a while, this included Hannah Drake, the Chief Creative Officer of IDEAS x-Lab.

In her search to find her history, she learned that from 1877 to 1950, 168 Black people were lynched in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, according to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama.

Eight of which are unknown.

Seeing people described as “unknown” didn’t sit well with Drake.

“It just seemed unfair to me that somebody existed, and breathed in this world and will now be remembered as unknown,” Drake said.

Now, Drake has made it her life goal to find the names of those unknown folks and any others who have been forgotten about.

She said she wants to give people a chance to learn their heritage.

“It’s very important to know where you came from,” Drake explained. “Why look this way? Why do the things that I do? How am I connected to this city, to this state and to this nation?”

Through her journey, Drake learned the name of her own great-grandmother, her hardships and the legacy she left behind.

It gave her firsthand proof of what this project can do for others.

“All this time when I thought I was building this project to help other people, it was always coming back to me” Drake said. “It was what I was supposed to be doing.”

The physical piece of the project found on the Louisville side of the Ohio River is called “On the Banks of Freedom.” It gives people a chance to see the dividing line between slavery and freedom.

“There are many people that were enslaved in Kentucky and attempted to get across the Ohio River and hopefully start on a life to freedom,” Drake said. “We wanted people to sit here and to reflect and look and see how close it is. It is so close, yet so far for so many people.”

The search to find the unknown is now also serving as a reminder that if we’re not careful, history can repeat itself.

“This project is about enslaved people, but if we think about the ‘Say Her Name’ mission, because they are still trying to raise up the Black people that are simply just forgotten, it’s the very same thing,” Drake said.

To learn more about the ‘Unknown Project’ and to see how you can help, visit their website.