The Watsonians Documentary Will Be Shown At The Old Dairy In Warm Springs On August 25
Covington, VA – During the time of segregation, there was no high school in Bath County for African American students. Those students rode a bus from Bath to Covington to attend The Watson School, the African American school there.
Cynthia Boteler, the Student Activities Coordinator at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, was working on an oral history project at the college involving the African American community. Through that project she came up with the idea for a documentary about the Bath students and she then produced the film.
“What I’d like to say about this film is that you will laugh and you will cry” says Boteler. “There’s an urgency in telling this history as once this generation is gone, the history will be gone. And that’s really why it’s important to continue this project and continue to gather the stories.”
The documentary is entitled “The Watsonians: These Are Our Stories – 1882 to 1966.” It is about the educational experiences of Bath County’s African American Students at The Watson School and it features about 15 former students.
“People we interviewed talked about they made do with a lot of hand me downs and used equipment and they just didn’t have the same things that the other schools had” she says. “They gained in integration perhaps newer schools, newer equipment, access to more classes, but I think what was lost was the strong sense of community and the pride in their old school. They had a really strong support system, family and their teachers. They had mentors and I don’t think it was ever quite the same after that; that was very clear.”
Boteler says Perlista Henry was responsible for bringing the history of the Bath students to her attention and Henry showed Boteler the two Bath County schools depicted in the film. And Doris Hayes, who grew up near Nimrod Hall, provided information about a school in the Millboro area. Henry and Hayes are both narrators in the film. Boteler is always looking for more photos and documents about The Watson School. She can be reached at 540-863-2828.
“The community that existed, the quality of the education, having them tell their own stories means so much more than reading about this era in a history book when it’s been told by someone else and interpreted by someone else” she says.
The Watson School documentary will be shown on Thursday August 25 at 7pm at the Old Dairy in Warm Springs. This showing honors the life of Travis Braxton and all Bath County alumni. Braxton recently passed away and he was a graduate of The Watson School and was the retired Hot Springs Postmaster. Admission for the showing is free but if you plan to attend please call Mary Hodges at the Virginia Hot Springs Preservation Trust at 540-839-2407.