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Archive for November 2012


National Day of Listening: "The Ancestors Told; The Elders Listened; We Pass It On" Blog Carnival Edition

The day we've been waiting for has arrived - today, November 23, 2012 is the fifth annual StoryCorps National Day of Listening!

Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

This year, our Genfriends have come together to contribute to a special blog carnival "The Ancestors Told; The Elders Listened; We Pass It On," in celebration of the National Day of Listening.

The response to the call for submissions was tremendous, and here you will find 18 inspired, thoughtful posts on the subject of family oral history and its importance to family historians.

The posts cover a full spectrum - some joyous, some sad, all relaying the same message - that WE are important links in the chain of oral history, and it is WE who must learn and preserve the Ancestors' legacy for generations to come.

We thank our contributors and invite you to settle in and read the stories - a whispered Hallelujah; a night that changed a family forever; a realization that snippets of information amount to a wealth of oral history - and more. Read on...

Sandra Taliaferro: Remembering Family Oral History Changed My Life!

In "Remembering Family Oral History Changed My Life!" Sandra Taliaferro reflects upon how snippets of oral history have come together to form an important part of her research.

Excerpt: "I am quick to tell you "I don't really have any family oral history. I am just piecing things together as I go along. No one has told me anything."

"This morning, while sitting and sipping my coffee, I pondered what to write about for this blog carnival because "I don't have any family oral history" and no one to interview. Then I thought "dah" the most important family event in my life could not have happened without the bits and pieces of family oral history that my mom had passed to me over the years. It had never occurred to me to think of it in that way."

"Sometimes you may think you have nothing, but you really have all you need..." MORE

Vicky Daviss Mitchell: Front Porch Hallelujah

Vicky Daviss Mitchell's blog post "Front Porch Hallelujah" speaks of a candid moment when her grandmother, normally reserved about offering family oral history, revealed the name of her grandmother Mariah, step-grandfather Lawrence and several cousins. Reading it, I felt as though I was on that porch on that day.

Excerpt: "On one of those last "sitting" on the porch days, I said to her something like I wonder what your daddy's mother looked like. She looked up and said, "You mean my grandma Mariah" I thought I would jump for joy.

Halleluja, Halleluja I silently thought. After all those years of asking, I finally got a name.

With a quiet voice I said to her, what about your grandfather, was he a nice man? Her reply was that her step grandfather was Lawrence. She mentioned her father Joseph's funeral and two cousins.

I was too afraid to get up and get a pencil..." MORE

Sandra Taliaferro: Family Oral History - It's Not Always a Pretty Picture

"Family Oral History - It's Not Always a Pretty Picture" speaks powerfully to the need to be prepared for whatever you may hear in an oral history interview.

Excerpt: "Senomia Middlebrooks (1898-1994) was my great aunt. Her mother was Sudie Parks and her father was Alex Middlebrooks. Her grandmother was Malinda Guise who I wrote about in Finding Malinda – Part 1 (click here if you missed that post). I grew up knowing my aunt Nomie, as we called her, and visited her many times. As a cousin said "She was the matriarch of our family."

Never once did I think to ask her about our family history and what it was like growing up in Meriwether County. It would be years after her death before the genealogy bug would bite me and I would crave for knowledge of my family history. A missed opportunity for sure, and I can only imagine the stories she had to tell. Little did I know Nomie had already added a chapter to our Middlebrooks family oral history..." MORE

George Geder: Oral History Or Bust

"Oral History Or Bust" - George Geder looks back and wishes he had asked family members about their recollections; family members who are now gone. George's is a cautionary tale.


"Mother, why didn’t you tell me about your family?

Father, why didn’t you tell me about your family?

Grandma, why didn’t you tell me anything?

It’s a little late to be asking your parents pointed questions after they have passed away. The trick to oral history is to catch them when they are alive; vibrant and coherent. Check this out… interview your grandparents if they are still around!..." MORE

True A. Lewis: When the Elders Go, the Stories Go

In "When the Elders Go, the Stories Go" True A. Lewis thinks back on the oral history she has gathered in casual moments when opportunity presents.

Excerpt: "When the Elders go, the stories go. That is all to be said. We can't get it back. We have to do what we can now to Preserve our History."

"Every time I try to explain to a family member or conversate with a near stranger. I try to convince them the importance of Oral History. I can't leave the importance of that out."

"It was the first thing I did as a unknown Family Historian without even knowing at the age of 9 what it was called. I was doing a “Oral History Interview” with my Father. Simply by just having a conversation with him over a family album. Seen in the photo below..." MORE

Kristin Cleage Williams: Questions I Wish I'd Asked

Kristin Cleage Williams' "Questions I Wish I'd Asked" speaks of questions she would like to ask of ancestors if they were with us today - mysteries she now seeks to solve through research.

Excerpt: "The generations gathered around my Graham grandparents dining room table in 1963 for Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey with cornbread dressing cooked by my grandfather. There was white rice, cranberry jelly, green beans, corn pudding and sweet potatoes. There was my grandmother’s finely chopped green salad and her homemade biscuits with butter and with a relish plate holding olives, sweet pickles and carrot sticks.

One thing there wasn’t, was talk about the old days..." MORE

Andrea Kelleher: Sharing Oral History Brings the Family Together

In "Sharing Oral History Brings the Family Together," Andrea Kelleher talks of finding two mystery relatives her mother remembered visited as a teenager, and what it meant to her mother to know who they were.

Excerpt: "A couple of years ago, my mother told me a story of one time when she was a teenager she made a trip to Morehead City with her mother and while there, they took a ride in the country. Now I know my mother and we have a similar sense of humor. I know when she was riding in that car she was probably thinking to herself, "Um, How much more country are we talking about here?" My mother was visiting from New York so Morehead City was looking country enough for her. Ha.

Anyway, she recalled they were driving out in the woods for quite a ways and finally came to this place where two sisters lived. To her they looked "Indian" or something. They were fair skinned with freckles and with long reddish brown hair. She remembered they were petite. They were referred to as some of her "grandmother's people." She's carried this memory with her all these years and wasn't sure who they were..." MORE

Angela Walton Raji: My Ancestors Told, My Elders Listened, We Now Pass It On

In "My Ancestors Told, My Elders Listened, We Now Pass It On," Angela Walton Raji tells of a tragic night in her family's history when night riders changed her family forever.

Excerpt: "For the National Day of Listening, I am sharing a story about an ancestor whose story was carried into the 20th century and preserved for the 21st century. This simply reflects how a simple story can unlock doors to the past.

The Ancestors Told....

In the late 1880s my ancestors living in rural Tennessee faced the threat that many black families faced---night riders!! They lived in Giles County Tennessee, the birthplace of the Klan. Until the 1880s the family had lived mostly in peace, during those post Civil War years.

One of the sons of the Bass family had even secured an education, attending and graduating from Meharry Medical School in 1878. Meharry was a school established in the 1870s to train black doctors. He had become a doctor and the family's status was rising in the small community where they lived. The changes in their life became the envy of a poorer white community and the prospect of seeing a black family acquire land and secure a better life meant that they had to be "put in their place..." MORE

Linda Durr Rudd: A Natural Born Storyteller

Linda Durr Rudd's "A Natural Born Storyteller" recalls oral history passed on by Linda's aunt Rosie Lee Durr (1928-1990).

Excerpt: "My Aunt Rosie was a natural born oral historian. She loved sharing about growing up in rural Copiah County, Mississippi, during the Great Depression. She shared the good, the bad, and the ugly about the people she loved and about herself. She didn't need prodding, she just talked.

Standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, drinking a cup of coffee, dressed for church with the mink stole around her shoulder, rollers in her hair on the front porch, she would tell stories. A major family event or simple everyday activities would take her back. She remembered the events of her own life and she remembered the stories that had been told to her..." MORE

Robin Foster: Pearls of Wisdom From My Mother

In "National Day of Listening 2012: Pearls of Wisdom from My Mother (VIDEO)," Robin Foster shares portions of her National Day of Listening interview with her mother Edna Foster.

Excerpt: "As you can see from this video excerpt, I am not finished learning from her or basking in her great wisdom. I urge you if you have not done so, to spend some time this Thanksgiving honoring your ancestor by interviewing and preserving his or her story..." MORE

Robin Foster: Voices In My Head: Values Dad Put There

In "Voices In My Head: Values Dad Put There," Robin Foster shares values her father Robert Foster (1938-1988) passed on to her from childhood, values she now holds in her heart.

Excerpt: "My memory of what I consider to be our first house is very special to me. My dad was a mathematical statistician who worked for US Civil Services in the 60's and 70's. Parents did not talk much back then to young children as they do now. The first house we lived in was the first one that my parents purchased. One day as I looked out the living room window of this house, I saw my father building another house.

I had heard no mention of this, but it fascinated me as I watched from next door as he progressed from the foundation to the roofing. I can not remember how long it took, but it did not seem long. It was a ranch style brick home. He, with great pride, took our family on a tour when it was finished..." MORE

Bernice Bennett: Wow! We Are Just Passing Through

In "Wow! We Are Just Passing Through," Bernice Bennett shares memories of Mardis Gras celebrations past, and recalls a poignant trip to the cemetery to honor those in her family who had passed away.

Excerpt: "My mother was always sharing a childhood memory! So, one day we were driving to the grocery store and she saw some ladies standing on the street. She immediately began to talk about her Cousins Josephine, Minerva, Pinky, Myrtle and Augustine. Mom did not have any sisters and those cousins meant a lot to her!

She told me that they were always there for each other! Helping out when necessary, visiting and celebrating a birthday, church event, you name it!

Mardi Gras was always a special time for the family to get together and we could always count on a bunch of relatives showing up at Aunt Hester’s house on Thalia Street in New Orleans because the truck floats would stop in front of her house..." MORE

Yvette Porter Moore: Family Stories Handed Down Through the Oral Tradition

Yvette Porter Moore's "Family Stories Handed Down Through the Oral Tradition" tells of oral history interviews Yvette shared with her mother.

Excerpt: "If the Story-Teller leaves no oral or written family history, it dies with them. I think my mother knew this. 44 years ago in 1973, I was 5 years old. My mother was an elementary school teacher and I distinctly remember during Summer vacation, my mother sitting in her home office and firmly letting me know that she was writing a family story. She would tell me that I needed to find something to do as she spoke into an old-fashioned tape recorder with a hand-held microphone, clearly pronouncing every syllable of every word..." MORE

Shelley Dewese: Military Monday- Army Nurse

In "Military Monday- Army Nurse," Shelley Dewese pays tribute to the daughter of her 3nd Great Uncle, Harold Bough, an Army nurse who cared for Tuskegee Airmen during WWII.

Excerpt: "Kathryn Yiensena Bough was born on March 18, 1909 to Harold Bough of St. Croix, a retired Wardroom Steward of the US Navy, and Maggie Keeling of Virginia, a retired Teacher, in the Public School System. Kathryn was the 4th of seven sisters (known as the Bough girls in Portsmouth Virginia).

Kathryn, a Registered Nurse, graduated from Lincoln School of Nursing in 1934. She also did some studies at Columbia University. Before joining the Army Nurse Corp. where she attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, she served as Head Nurse at Harlem Hospital, New York City..." MORE

Tami Koenig: Your Story Coach: Honoring Sgt. Frank D. Age

In "Honoring Sgt. Frank D. Age" Tami Koenig honors her uncle who was killed in action in WWII.

Excerpt: "Frank Age Jr. was my mom's brother. Just a few year's older, he was my mother's best friend and her protector. They both valued education and found a way to leave their poverty stricken home and take room and board near a good high school where they both studied. My mother graduated in 1942, but by then Frank had already joined the army. He enlisted in February 1941 and became part of the 34th Infantry (Red Bull) Division..." MORE

Cheri Hudson Passey: To Honor Those Who Served: My Family's Veterans

"To Honor Those Who Served: My Family's Veterans" honors those in Cheri Hudson Passey's family who served in the Revolution, WWI, WWII and Viet Nam.

Excerpt: "As I continue to research the lives of my ancestors I am sure I will find others who served or were willing to serve if called to do so.

I am grateful to each of them for a family legacy of service..." MORE

Dr. Bill Smith: National Day of Listening - Friday, 23 Nov 2012 Upcoming

Dr. Bill Smith's "National Day of Listening - Friday, 23 Nov 2012 Upcoming" urges us to interview aunts and uncles, who may have a wealth of family history information.

"Talk to aunts and uncles this holiday season about their family stories.

I frequently write of learning and sharing the stories of my and your family history and genealogy. This year, as we approach the holiday season of family gathering, I want to encourage each of us to reach out to some additional key persons to better gather, record, understand and share these family stories: aunts and uncles (including great aunts and uncles, of course)..." MORE

Toni Carrier: Lessons from My Grandmother ... Taught by My Uncle

Finally, in my own entry "Lessons from My Grandmother ... Taught by My Uncle," I discuss a recent experience that opened my eyes to the need to quiz every family member who will sit still for it, to ask about family history.

Excerpt: "My uncle, who is only a few years my elder, came to visit me and in a back-porch conversation, the topic turned to my grandmother. We were talking about different jobs my grandmother held and my uncle said, "It is amazing to me how much she accomplished with a 5th grade education."

WHAT? I shook my head like I was shaking out cobwebs..." MORE

Many Thanks from Your Blog Carnival Hosts!

Your blog carnival hosts Angela Walton Raji, George Geder and Lowcountry Africana thank YOU for making this blog carnival "The Ancestors Told; The Elders Listened; We Pass It On" in celebration of StoryCorps' National Day of Listening a tremendous success.

To our contributors and our readers we say THANK YOU, Happy Holidays and don't let those stories slip away. You are a vital link in the chain of oral history!

Grab your smartphone, a recorder or your laptop and follow the links below to see how YOU can celebrate the National Day of Listening!

5 Ways to Celebrate the National Day of Listening: Simple Ways to Honor Those Who Have Touched Our Lives

Overcoming Three Obstacles to Recording Your Oral History Interview

From Lowcountry National Day of Listening sponsor Your Story Coach: 5 Ways to Preserve Memories and Share Stories on the National Day of Listening


Lessons from My Grandmother ... Taught by My Uncle

Or, Who Is an Elder?

We often think of family elders as the keepers of family history, but do we think to ask aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins what they recall about our families?

I recently had an experience that opened my eyes to the need to quiz every family member who will sit still for it, to ask about family history.

My uncle, who is only a few years my elder, came to visit me and in a back-porch conversation, the topic turned to my grandmother. We were talking about different jobs my grandmother held and my uncle said, "It is amazing to me how much she accomplished with a 5th grade education."

WHAT? I shook my head like I was shaking out cobwebs.


"Did you say?"

"It is amazing to me how much she accomplished with a 5th grade education" came the answer.

At that moment my memory flashed to my grandmother telling me that when she started 6th grade, she was put back to 5th grade because she did not speak English. What I didn't know is that she never went back.

My family is Cajun French. My grandmother's birth record states that she was born "in the bayou near..."

She was the keeper of the family history and of our Cajun culture. From the time I could talk she was teaching me to count to 10 in French (the only French I now know). When she was cooking, she would pull a chair up to the stove, lift me onto it and start: "First you brown your onions..." I must have been 5 or so.

My grandmother died in 1976. Now, as an adult, I wish I had paid more attention to the things she was intent on passing on to me.

It never occurred to me to ask her son, my uncle, who is barely 12 years older than me, about what she taught to him.

Above: Me, My Uncle, My Grandmother and My Sister, about 1964

That back-porch epiphany woke me up, gave me a much deeper respect for my grandmother for the challenges she faced, and gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of learning and preserving our family history before it slips away.

Guess who I am interviewing for StoryCorps' National Day of Listening?


Call for Submissions: There’s a Blog Carnival Coming to Town!

The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On

~ Greetings Genfriends! ~

It's been a while since we had a Gen community blog carnival. In honor of StoryCorps' upcoming National Day of Listening, the Preservinators (Angela Walton-Raji, George Geder and Lowcountry Africana) have reunited to bring you “The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On,” a blog carnival that's all about oral history.

We invite YOU to submit blog posts for the carnival, which will roll out on the National Day of Listening, the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, 2012!

What Is the National Day of Listening?

Friday, November 23, is the fifth annual National Day of Listening. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide at

What Is a Blog Carnival?

A blog carnival is a special event where bloggers come together to write about a particular topic (in this case oral history and its importance to family historians). Bloggers submit links to their blog posts on that topic to the carnival host, and the host gathers them all into one great magazine-like edition with comments on each post.

It’s a great way bloggers from all walks of life can share their ideas about a particular subject.

How Can I Participate in the Blog Carnival?

Participating is easy!

  • ~ First, have a look at some of the suggested topics below and simply write a post on your blog about the topic you choose.
  • ~ Second, send us the link to your article via the submit form here ( no later than Wednesday, November 21.
  • ~ Third, grab your beautiful blog badge here for your blog to wear proudly!
  • That’s it! We’ll gather up all the links and publish them in a special edition on Nov. 23, the National Day of Listening!

    I Don’t Have a Blog. Can I Still Participate?

    You betcha! You can write a post, send it to Lowcountry Africana here, and we’ll post it on Lowcountry Africana’s blog! Just note in your message that you would like to borrow our blog to post your article.

    What Can I Write About?

    Here are a few ideas for what you may wish to write about for the carnival but they are suggestions only – you can write about any aspect of oral history you like. Choose one idea, choose several, or dream up your own - it’s totally up to you!

  • ~ Planning to participate in StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening? Blog about who you will be interviewing and why recording their memories is important to you.
  • ~ Don’t know anyone to interview but want to spread the word about National Day of Listening? Blog about why you think this national holiday devoted to oral history is important.
  • ~ StoryCorps’ chosen theme this year is Thank a Veteran. Is there a veteran in your family (living or deceased) you would like to thank? (Hint: If you already wrote such a blog post for Veterans’ Day, send us the link and we’ll include it in the “The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On” blog carnival!)
  • ~ Who are the family members who have shared recollections of ancestors with you and furthered your research? How did what they shared help you learn more about ancestors?
  • ~ Who are the elders who have passed along life wisdom to you? What lessons did you learn from them that you now keep in your heart?
  • ~ Which ancestor do you wish you could interview now? What questions would you ask them and why?
  • ~ Transcribe and share an oral history you conducted in the past, or write about your experience of revisiting and transcribing the interview. Are you glad you transcribed the interview? Has it opened new research avenues for you?
  • ~ Take an hour to record your OWN story – what do you want future generations to know about you? Share your own story in a blog post.
  • ~ Blog about any aspect of why learning and preserving oral history is important.
  • I’ve Written and Published My Blog Post. Now What?

    Just use the submit form here to send us the link! We’ll gather up your links and post them in a special edition article on Nov. 23, the National Day of Listening.

    Don’t forget to grab your National Day of Listening badge here for your blog to wear proudly! THANK YOU for making the “The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On” blog carnival a special event in honor of a special day!

    ~ Your hosts Angela Y. Walton Raji, George Geder and Lowcountry Africana


    Print-Snap-Share: Help Story Corps Raise Awareness of the National Day of Listening and Qualify to Win One of Three Digital Recorders!

    This Wednesday evening, Nov 14, we'll be giving away three Olympus VN-7200 digital voice recorders (perfect for recording oral history interviews!). We'll draw from among our friends who Print-Snap-Share to spread the word about StoryCorps' National Day of Listening!

    Story Corps has chosen "Building a Nation of Listeners" as this year's theme. And we've made a fab sign for you to share to help spread the word about the National Day of Listening!

    How to Print-Snap-Share!

    Easy as pie!

  • 1. Print the sign
  • 2. Snap your picture holding the sign
  • 3. Share the picture on our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook with the text:

    "The National Day of Listening is a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide at"

  • That's it!

    Camera shy? It's OK, you can just share the sign itself with the text, without snapping your picture. We're not picky. Here are images you can grab that are the perfect size for sharing on Facebook:

    Then don't forget to share it on your own Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn pages!

    Voila! You have helped Story Corps raise awareness of the National Day of Listening!


    Slave Dwelling Project Wraps Up 2012 Schedule with Stay at Boone Hall Plantation

    Back to the Beginning

    Joseph McGill at Boone Hall Plantation

    It was 12 years ago when I had my very first stay in a slave cabin at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, SC. The event was filmed for a History Channel documentary titled The Unfinished Civil War. The documentary aired a few times but flopped because confederate reenactors came out in numbers and complained about the way they were portrayed.

    It was during that stay 12 years ago that I woke up about 3:00 am to the sound of dogs barking in the background. I immediately thought of slaves trying to escape and being chased by dogs. Today, just as I am curious about my ancestry, I look at blood hounds and wonder if their blood line includes dogs that were once used to hunt down escaping slaves.

    Fast forward 12 years and I again got the opportunity to spend the night in a cabin at Boone Hall Plantation. This time would be different. This stay would occur during the reenactment of the Civil War battle known as Secessionville, an historic battle that occurred on James Island, SC 150 years earlier. For years this battle has been reenacted at Boone Hall making it the largest Civil War battle reenactment in the state of South Carolina.

    Although I had participated in the reenactment in various ways in the past, I saw this as a great opportunity for the reenactment and the Slave Dwelling Project to merge. I was urged by the property owners to coordinate my stay with the organizers of the reenactment which turned out to be a good strategy because this event was theirs and not mine. The organizers gave me an offer that I could not refuse.

    We agreed that I would come in on Friday, November 9th to address the school kids that would be coming to the event. My subject would be the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. I addressed hundreds of kids from 2nd grade through middle school and homeschoolers. I really enjoyed testing their knowledge of the Civil War and inserting the story of how African Americans became soldiers for the Union army. Their reactions were varied to my intent to stay in one of the slave cabins the following two nights.

    They are Not Always What They Seem

    I had obtained from the property owner the permission for others to join me in the stay in the cabin and by this time in the project I have come accustomed to it. Several people made promises to do just that but for various reasons the first night in the cabin would be mine alone. Before the cabin experience, I had the opportunity to walk through the Union Civil War encampment and was quickly reminded of why I became a Civil War reenactor. Behind the big house where the camp was located was a sea of tents of various sizes with camp fires at random intervals burning throughout.

    Battle of Secessionville Reenactment Encampment

    It was my goal to get to as many of those camp fires as I possibly could to interact with the people sitting around them. In the reenactment community we galvanize meaning we may put on the uniform of the opposing force so that we can give the public a more realistic representation of a Civil War battle. It is far easier for some to galvanize than others however galvanizing does not change ones personal opinions or beliefs about the Civil War. As I walked through the camp, the groups would tell me which Union group that they would represent during the battle reenactment. They would also tell me which Confederate group they represent most often. As I continued to walk through the camp with the cover of darkness increasingly concealing my identity, I came across a conversation that was very racially insensitive so I decided that was not the best encampment of which to interact.

    All of my other encounters were quite rewarding the most of which was a free concert. Drawn by the music, I came upon a camp fire scene where two musicians were playing banjos and one was playing a guitar and several people were singing. I joined in and for me they played and sang Amazing Grace. After the song my immediate instinct was to query the participants about the history of the song but not wanting to be out of order, I continued to enjoy the free concert.

    Boone Hall Slave Cabin

    Since my first stay in the cabin, Boone Hall had done a wonderful job with their restoration. I chose the cabin with the Sweet Grass basket display in it. I came prepared as usual anticipating that I would need the use of lanterns but the electricity needed to operate the displays made the lanterns unnecessary. All of the cabins were equipped with displays that, with the push of a button, all visitors could learn about some aspect of the cabins and the people who inhabited them. Sleeping alone in the cabin was not a challenge because I was well aware of all of the activities related to the reenactment that was happening on the property. The solitude was welcome. It gave me the opportunity to reminiscence about the Slave Dwelling Project and how it can be enhanced.

    The Rest of the Story

    Saturday would be the first day for reenacting the battle. Waking up alone in the cabin early that morning, gave me a great opportunity to do some writing. The 39 degree temperature made it somewhat of a challenge to keep warm but a campfire that was burning not so far from the cabin was welcoming. One of the event organizers came by to invite me back to the 2013 event.

    The Civil War camps began to come alive; the suttlers (Civil War merchants) opened their doors; the sweet grass basket makers manned their station; and Boone Hall employees opened all of the cabins for public viewing. The interpreter for the slave street story came by to write the times on a chalk board for which she would be telling the stories of the cabins and the people who lived in them. I listened intently to the first presentation and was thoroughly impressed. Because I was not officially on the docket, I asked if I could have some time with her future audiences to talk about the Slave Dwelling Project. Lucky for me, she heard my interpretation to the school kids the day before and agreed that I could be value added to her message. That tag team approach went over well and has some potential for future development. I got various reactions from the audiences. One gentleman regrettably confessed to me that his ancestors were slave owners. One other couple made me aware of a lone cabin in Tennessee of which they can help me gain access.

    Terry James in Slave Cabin at Boone Hall Plantation

    Anyone who has been keeping up with the project through this blog know that Terry James (Old Reliable) has stayed in a slave dwelling with me more times than any other person. He would join me the second night. When he got there early in the evening, all of the food vendors were closed so getting him fed would be a challenge. That challenge was easily overcome when on our first stop at the Union camp, we were offered dinner which we unhesitatingly accepted. We dined on a green bean and a potato mixture, navy beans and ham which were deliciously all cooked over an open fire. We thanked the cooks but passed on the very tempting dessert that they offered us.

    The Battle of Secessionville Civil War reenactment included a ball which was held at the Cotton Dock on the plantation. Terry and I made our appearance there before we turned in for the night. While there, the invitations for our Civil War group to participate in an upcoming battle reenactment continued. This invitation was one of several which will unfortunately not be honored because our membership has been stagnant for the past few years.

    Slave Shackles Interpretive Display Boone Hall Plantation

    Before entering the cabin for the night, we spent a little time around the fire talking about some of the notable past slave dwellings stays. Inside the cabin, Terry attached the shackles to his wrists and we both feel asleep.

    The next morning as the camps started to come alive, we cleaned up the cabin, took lots of pictures and went our separate ways.

    The Future of the Project

    So there you have it, the Slave Dwelling Project 2012. The year 2013 will hold some surprises and firsts for the project. There will be some repeat stays but because of my stay at Bacon’s Castle in Surry, Virginia those stays will be more robust. Like the stay at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, there will be another institution of higher learning added to the roster. Private owners will be well represented.

    In its existence, the Slave Dwelling Project has covered Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. There are states that are blatantly missing from the list. Ambassadors, your mission, should you choose to accept, be it a plantation or urban slavery, help find those places in those states that can help further the cause of the Slave Dwelling Project.


    Listening to Elders Gives Voice to Ancestors

    “Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.” ― Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings

    Does it strike you that family elders among us today may be the last generation who can connect with oral history of ancestors who were freed from slavery?

    It certainly seems that way to us, and that is what drives us to get records out on the Internet - get them out there while there are elders alive who can make sense of them, recognize the names of enslaved ancestors, and share the stories behind the names on the page.

    It is in the stories of elders that we begin to hear our ancestors' voices. Learning about how they lived, we learn what their values were. Learning about customs and traditions, we learn about their culture. Learning about their struggles and the challenges they faced, we gain perspective on our own lives.

    When we begin hearing our ancestors' voices, we learn who we are and how we inherited our world.

    The generation of elders among us today can connect us, via oral history, to the stories of our ancestors. But our elders are leaving us every day. There's no better time than now to begin to learn the stories our elders can tell, and preserve those stories for future generations.

    StoryCorps' National Day of Listening resources can help you get started on learning the stories of your ancestors. Their free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide will lead you through what you need to know to interview elders and learn more about their lives and their memories of those who came before you.

    Friday, November 23, 2012 is the fifth annual National Day of Listening, a new national holiday devoted to oral history.

    Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

    We hope you will celebrate and enjoy the National Day of Listening this year. Why not start a new family tradition and create some great holiday memories at the same time?

    For more information on how you can celebrate the National Day of Listening, please view our article 5 Ways to Celebrate the National Day of Listening, and visit StoryCorps' National Day of Listening website.


    The National Day of Listening: Learn and Preserve Family Stories

    Take Part in StoryCorps' 2012 National Day of Listening!


    Lowcountry Africana is pleased to be an official national partner of the acclaimed oral history project StoryCorps in celebrating the fifth annual National Day of Listening on Friday, November 23, 2012.

    On the day after Thanksgiving every year, Lowcountry Africana and StoryCorps are asking all Americans to start a new holiday tradition: set aside an hour to interview a friend, a loved one, or someone in their community about his or her life.

    Lowcountry Africana will be taking part in the 2012 National Day of Listening by recording interviews with Lowcountry residents.

    While the family is gathered for the holidays, why not interview a family elder to learn more about your family's history? Or, interview a friend or community member who inspires you.

    Your heritage or preservation organization can take part in the National Day of Listening as well, by interviewing community elders and preserving their stories. Who will YOU interview?

    The National Day of Listening: How You Can Participate!

    To record your own National Day of Listening Interview:

    • Find someone you would like to interview
    • Create your question list
    • Sit down to record your conversation

    StoryCorps has created a free Do-It-Yourself (DIY) interview guide with step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations, and sample questions that is available online at

    You can record your interview using equipment that is readily available in most homes—from cell phones to tape recorders to computers or even pen and paper.

    Create a New Holiday Tradition

    By participating in this year’s National Day of Listening, we hope you’ll find that taking the time out to interview someone about his or her life is the least expensive but most meaningful gift that you can give. And you will create wonderful memories to make the holiday season all the more special.

    Ready to learn more? Check out the video overview of the National Day of Listening. You can share the video with the person you will interview, to help them prepare.

    Ways to Share and Preserve Your Interview

    There are many ways to share and preserve your National Day of Listening interview:

    • Be sure to share a copy with the person you interviewed, so they can preserve their story for future generations of family members.
    • You can enter your name and the name of the person you interviewed on the Wall of Listening on the National Day of Listening website. When you fill in the Wall of Listening form, you can request a Certificate of Participation. If you would like to encourage others to participate in the National Day of Listening, you can select to share your Wall of Listening entry on Facebook and Twitter.
    • You can share and preserve your interview on our Family Stories page, where you can share text, sound and video recordings.
    • Will you be blogging about your National Day of Listening interview? Send us the link to your blog entry and we'll share it on Facebook and Twitter!

    Video: Robin Foster Discusses the Importance of Family Oral History

    Robin Foster took some time out to discuss StoryCorps' National Day of Listening, and the importance of family oral history. Please click on the video below to view:

    Ready to Take Part? Get Your Do-It-Yourself Kit from StoryCorps!

    You'll find everything you need to get started in the step-by-step guide here. There you will find instructions, advice on recording your interview, and suggested questions.

    You can listen to interviews on the National Day of Listening website to find inspiration and ideas for your interview.

    We hope interviewing a loved one for the National Day of Listening makes your holiday season even more special!

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