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Williamsburg Book Festival collects oral histories about Tidewater’s lost towns

The Williamsburg Book Festival will be collecting oral histories of events during the 1930s and 1970s on Feb. 28 at the Stryker Center.
The Williamsburg Book Festival will be collecting oral histories of events during the 1930s and 1970s on Feb. 28 at the Stryker Center.

The Williamsburg Book Festival wants to hear your stories.

In celebration of Black History Month, the Williamsburg Book Festival is working on its “Lost Communities of the Virginia Peninsula” project, according to festival organizer Greg Lilly.

The project aims to tell the oral histories of people who experienced the relocation by eminent domain in the 1930s and the integration of the school system in the 1970s.

With the development of Camp Peary and the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, several area communities were uprooted, including the Magruder, Lackey, Penniman and Bigler’s Mill communities.

The Williamsburg Book Festival, supported by the York County Arts Commission, is collecting names and transcribing the oral histories of locals, no matter their background.

The organization will have volunteers on-hand to record residents’ stories from 1-5 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Stryker Center, located at 412 N. Boundary St.

It can be black, white, Asian, it doesn’t matter — if they were here during that time and they have some experiences, we want to record them,” said Greg Lilly, organizer of the Williamsburg Book Festival.

Lilly said the goal is not to influence or shape the experiences, but to record each person’s recollection. He said the idea stemmed from October’s book festival.

“This is a story that kind of needs to be recorded so the book festival did a grant application to the York County Arts Commission last year. Here’s what we want to do, these were communities in York County that were moved and first off we just want to record what people remember what was important to them and what their stories were,” Lilly said.

The arts commission granted the $400 request. Lilly said the funds were used for audio recording equipment.

If enough people contribute, the organization could look at compiling the stories and turning the recollections into a book.

“The nice thing is with these digital recordings, we will have copies so if the churches want them we can give them copies,” Lilly said. “If the library wants it we give them copies, and we keep a copy, and then decide once we get through a couple phases [if] we have the making of a book,” Lilly said.

Troy Jeffersonhttp://wydaily.com
Troy Jefferson is the city of Williamsburg and James City County reporter for the WYDaily. Jefferson graduated from Michigan State University and the University of Maryland. When he is not writing stories, he enjoys romantic comedies.

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