Editor's note: Michael S. Snow is a historian on the history staff of the U.S. Census Bureau.
(CNN) - A reporter last week asked me if many people cared about the release of individual records from the 1940 Census. "Are they just a historic relic?" was the followup from someone else unimpressed that the general public would finally have access to more than 100 million census records locked away for 72 years.
Americans answered those questions loud and clear. The National Archives and Records Administration website housing 1940 Census records registered over 60 million hits in just three hours on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, the second day they were open. The outpouring of demand for such information calls on us to examine what is driving it.
The individual records help Americans gain a greater sense of who our ancestors were and with it an understanding of the blood that runs through our own veins. Each image from the 1940 Census is a lined page called a population schedule, containing the records of up to 40 individuals.
They might not look like much - the penmanship of 123,000 census takers varied, the cursive may be hard to read, ink from fountain pens ran too light on some letters. One line on a 1940 Census record, however, has the power to confirm a family legend we have heard for years, or it can make us confront a troubling truth buried long ago.
Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.
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By Erika Peterman, Special to CNN
(CNN) - When you really love a book, the characters live and breathe in your imagination. No matter how the author describes them, you form your own ideas about how they look, which is why fans become deeply (and I mean deeply) invested in the choices of actors to portray them onscreen.
Like the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” nerds before us, we devotees of “The Hunger Games” spent a lot of time discussing and debating those choices before the film’s release. In the case of an undisputed phenomenon — the movie passed the $300 million mark over the weekend — some controversy is inevitable.
But there’s one sentiment I wasn’t prepared for. In short: “What the hell are black people doing here?”
By Moni Basu, CNN
Denver (CNN) - The caller ID on Eman al-Obeidi's smart phone says private number. She guesses the call is from a fellow Libyan and promptly silences the ringer.
"I think the halal meat seller gave out my number," she says, picking up another piece of sizzling beef fajita. "That's why I don't buy halal meat anymore."
If only that were enough to lose the gossip that follows her, even in her new home far away from the native land she fled. Her fellow Libyans are her harshest judges.
The world knows her as the Libyan woman who stormed into Tripoli's Rixos Hotel a little more than a year ago in March, screaming of gang rape by Col. Moammar Gadhafi's thugs.
In that moment of utter defiance, splashed on television screens everywhere, she became a face of the Libyan revolution, her heroism a source of inspiration for men and women fighting a longtime tyrant. Some even said she was to Libya what Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit vendor who set himself afire, was to Tunisia's revolution. A few weeks ago, Newsweek magazine included her on its list of 150 fearless women.
Al-Obeidi drew sympathy and fame, her image painted for the public on a canvas of courage.
Now, in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, she says she craves anonymity.