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Family reunion research project: call for participants
Dr. Stephen Criswell, folklorist and professor of English at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, is conducting a study of African American family reunions, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He will examine origins, development and significance of these reunions. Dr. Criswell seeks individuals and families to participate in the study. Volunteers will be interviewed and should be willing to allow Dr. Criswell and his assistants to observe and document their reunions. In exchange, interviewees and family members have access to all documents (videotapes, photographs and interview tapes) about their family reunions.

If you would like to participate in this project, please contact Dr. Criswell at 803-253-5221; secriswell@hotmail.com; or Department of English, Benedict College, 1600 Harden Street, Columbia SC 29204. Tell him you learned about the study in Reunions magazine.

Family Matters: Preserving the Past
William Ferris, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and southern folklorist, commented on peoples’ increasing desire to connect with the past in a recent Washington Post article by Mary Quattlebaum. Our American tendency to live far from extended family is an obvious cause. Ferris says, "In the days when Grandma or Great-Uncle Joe lived just down the road, stories got told as a natural part of family gatherings. Now that these informal channels are gone, largely due to our more transient lifestyles, people, especially young people, seem to feel a greater urgency to consciously preserve family stories — before they are lost."

Ferris’s federal agency encourages study of American traditions. The NEH created a "virtual front porch" with Genealogy.com and the White House Millennium Council. The web site, My History Is America's History (www.myhistory.org), encourages folks to post family stories and peruse others. Visitors can also explore family history preservation, from keeping a journal to researching old photos to making a family quilt.

"Everyone contributes to history, not just the great leaders of a country," says Ferris. "And everyone can be a historian, even a child. Learning more about our own ancestry, knowing we are linked to someone who participated in national events — the Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights movement — deepens our awareness of these events."

Find the lost ones
If you’re trying to locate a "lost" family member, write them a letter including your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. Send the letter in an unsealed, stamped envelope, with cover letter, to Social Security Administration (SSA), Letter Forwarding Unit, 6401 Security Blvd, Baltimore MD 21235. The cover letter should include all you know about the person. Include name, social security number, birthplace, parents’ names and anything else to help locate your relative. The more information you have, the easier your relative will be found. If the SSA forwards the letter, it’s up to the relative to contact you.

Stamp of approval
You don't have to be a philatelist to lick this. As part of the Legends of Hollywood series, a US postage stamp commemorating the life and work of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is now available. So we got to thinking: why not a family reunion commemorative stamp? Approximately 40,000 such suggestions are made each year; 25 to 30 may become stamps. From recommendation to issue date takes about three years. Ask for a reunion stamp! Send to Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, US Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza, Room 4474E, Washington DC 20260-2437.

Rosa Parks Museum
On a cold evening over 45 years ago when a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus stopped in front of the Empire Theater, the driver told black seamstress Rosa Parks she had to give up her seat to white passengers. That simple affront touched off the Montgomery Bus Boycott and began the civil rights movement and is now recreated in a new museum the Troy State University Montgomery Rosa Parks Library and Museum honoring Parks, now 87.

The museum gives visitors the chance to see and feel a little of what segregated Montgomery was like 45 years ago. The highlight is a bus that was used in Montgomery at the time of Parks' arrest. Looking in the bus windows, visitors see a video that recreates the famous conversation between Parks and the driver.

"Are you going to stand up," the driver asked.

"No," Parks answered.

"Well, by God, I'm going to have you arrested," the driver said.

"You may do that," Parks responded.

The museum is located at 252 Montgomery St, Montgomery AL 36104; 334-241-8661; http://montgomery.troy.edu/museum/.

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