NRCC to screen documentary film about historic Virginia African American schools
New River Community College will host a screening and discussion of the documentary film “The Watsonians: These Are Our Stories, Watson Elementary/High School, 1882-1966” on Monday, February 4, from noon to 2 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium as part of the college’s black history month activities.
The film focuses on the personal narratives of teachers and students in the Covington area who were among the generations of African American families who attended segregated schools before federal legislation mandated integration.
The film supplements an oral history project led by Cynthia Boteler, a faculty member at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (DSLCC). It documents the educational experiences of teachers and students at both Watson School in Covington and Jefferson School in Clifton Forge as part of a grant funded by the Virginia Community College System. Boteler donated written transcripts along with CDs of the recordings to local libraries and historical societies, and each interviewee received a copy.
Boteler will present her film and share stories about the process of developing an oral history project and creating a team to interview and film alumni of the schools. She will also discuss resources for creating similar projects in other communities. “It is important to document this history in all of our communities across Virginia. The alumni from all of these schools have stories and memories to share. Once they are gone, the history will also disappear unless it is recorded, written and preserved for future generations,” comments Boteler.
Filming took place during the 12th annual Watson School Reunion. The project was one of six from across the nation that was supported by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg.
A small group of DSLCC students and staff and community volunteers assisted Boteler with various aspects of the project.
The film screening and discussion is free and the public is invited to attend. More information may be obtained by contacting Dr. Ben Kramer, NRCC activities counselor, at 540-674-3600, ext. 4431.
– Submitted by Amanda Allen, New River Community College
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