Surry Historical Society to Meet

Submitted by SCHS President Fran Barnes

The Surry County, VA Historical Society is pleased to announce that our speaker for our program on Monday, March 13, 2023, will be Andre Taylor, Oral Historian at William and Mary. The program will be held at the Surry Parks and Rec Center on Route 10 W, just outside of the town of Surry.  The program will begin at 7 p.m. Mr. Taylor will be available beforehand from 6: 15-7:00 to meet guests and answer questions. He will share reasons why we should collect oral histories and also give an overview on how to collect those valuable stories, including mock interviews. The program is free and open to everyone. 

Collecting these stories to include with our records has always been of interest to our Surry County Historical Society, but recently a new member asked about the history of the old Claremont School, and that led to a discussion of who might be able to share that story. Another researcher asked if we had any information on Loafer’s Oak, located on Hollybush Road, and we wondered who could tell that story. 

Later, a Board members discovered that our very own Bo and Hannah Bohannan have contributed to the oral history collection at William & Mary! We realized that to preserve Surry County’s history and make it accessible for future generations, oral history collections would be a great way to collect memories and personal commentaries. What a valuable historical record! 

Mr. Taylor began this position at William and Mary in the summer of 2020, and he is responsible for capturing the stories of people from the campus and the surrounding community and placing those stories into historical context. The “Collecting our Story,” program educates individuals in the correct way to collect oral histories in their family and community. Participants get training in the program and at the end of the session, get a chance to do mock interviews with other participants.

Taylor spent 15 years as a print journalist, most recently at the Greensboro (NC) News & Record. Even as a journalist, he conducted side oral history projects that focused on the return home from World War II by the Tuskegee Airmen. While completing his masters at NC State University, he focused his research on the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on the cultural heritage of the Gullah Geechee community in St. Helena Island, South Carolina. “Collecting oral histories from the community was a great part of my research,” Taylor added.