Oral histories from the Rappahannock River

Rappahannock River, as seen from Hunter’s Island, Spring 2017

As a colonial historian, I never thought I’d be working on an oral history project, but a couple of years ago a student from my environmental history class, Woodie Walker, who is also a conservationist at Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) approached me with an idea generated by his contacts at work: to collect and preserve oral histories related to the river. Following several dam removals in the early 2000s, the Rappahannock became Virginia’s longest free-flowing river, and a major destination for recreational paddlers and fishers, plus an important fishery for watermen. It’s an important cultural and natural resource for many of Virginia’s communities, and I’m delighted to finally share the first five oral histories we’ve collected in this collaboration between FOR and UMW students and faculty, and with the enthusiastic support of community partners.

On the site, you can watch videos of the interviews (time-stamped index coming soon for better navigation) or read transcripts (several are available now, and the rest will be soon).

If you want to know more, join us in Monroe Hall for Talking History on Feb. 12, or stop by the table at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival on March 31 at UMW’s Dodd Auditorium.

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