An overwhelming response greeted the Church's press conference to 13 locations around the United States announcing the Freedman's Bank CD.
The announcement was covered by the nation's major newspapers and national television stations and many local newspapers. "We are thrilled and humbled and excited to be a part of this," said Kim Farah, who helped coordinate the announcement for the Church's Public Affairs Department.
Leaders of the black communities who received the CD "have been so gracious. . . . It has been a wonderful bridge-building occasion; We have reports of profound spiritual connections with the guests. It was quite emotional for all of us. The best way to characterize it the is a celebration of families and histories and communities that was more than we could ever ask."
In Washington D.C., Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was the honored. She joined more than 100 other guests who included Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen and ambassadors.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington D.C. where the bank headquarters were once located, has a great-grandfather who was a patron of the Freedman's Bank and whose records are located on the CD.
"The energy in that room was thrilling," said Charles Brewer, a member of the African-American Historical Genealogical Society and an invited guest. "This is going to revolutionize the African-American family history world."
In Chicago, 104-year-old Mary Heard Lewis, the daughter of freed slaves, added to her family tree from the resources of the new CD. She and many others celebrated her birthday, which was Feb. 27. She said of her new family history information: "I am glad to get it."
In Atlanta, John Lewis, U.S. Congressman and civil rights leader, delivered an address prior to the press conference, which was held at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. "To reconcile our past, we must know our history," Mr. Lewis said. Atlanta City Councilman Michael Bond presented a plaque of appreciation to the Church, according to David Winters.
In Los Angeles, Calif., Keith Atkinson, public affairs director for Southern California, said that the response of those attending the press conference was one of overwhelming appreciation for what had been done and they felt a closer bond to the Church this was a positive step, and what was past was past.
Some 170 community leaders, scholars, elected officials and others attended the conference. "All were just full of praise and appreciation for what had been done, and indicated that this was the right step at the right time, and that our two communities were working more closely together."
One woman observed, "Isn't it interesting that we have suffered so much for our race and they suffered so much for their religion, and now we are coming together."