Founded in 1979, the Society immediately set out to gather and publicize
information on the history and genealogy of Africans in America. Monthly
meetings permitted members to share important genealogical finds, to
attend classes on research techniques, and to hear speakers on
genealogical subjects. The column “Afro-American Roots” began to
appear in 1982 in the Chicago Defender, written by Dr. Adlean Harris,
one of the founders. In about 1984, the society began to present an
annual workshop featuring speakers from across the nation who
specialize in historical research. The Society began in 1989 to sponsor
research trips to various important libraries and archives nation-wide.
Subsequently, its members have formed state study groups to focus on
the different types of records maintained by different states.
The society has established several programs for youth to engage in
family research, most recently, the Genealogy for Kids program. The
Black Churches Project, in progress, entails cataloging records of black
churches in existence before 1930.
The society has compiled a surname registry, and its members published
a book indexing burials in Chicago’s African-American Lincoln Cemetery.
Members have published a wide variety of other books, from Tony
Burrough’s Black Roots to family histories, manuals and other indexing
projects, as well as numerous articles in genealogical journals and
newsletters. A quarterly newsletter enjoys nationwide distribution.
The society has approximately 200 members, many of whom live in
distant cities. Visitors to its annual conference have been inspired to
start Afro-American genealogical societies in their own hometowns.
Through research, members have been able to discover truths about
American and African-American history not available elsewhere.