The Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (DDFR) team was honored to attend the 143rd Still Family Reunion in Lawnside, New Jersey on August 12, 2012. The Still gathering is one of the largest African American Family Reunions in the United States with hundreds of relatives, friends, neighbors, and supporters attending each year. The Still convocation has gained so much national attention that it was even featured on the cover of the National Geographic magazine in the summer issue of July 1984, written by Charles L. Blockson.
The Still family can trace it roots back to William Still (1801-1902), a writer, businessman and abolitionist, who was a driving force in the Underground Railroad that assisted hundreds of enslaved people escape to freedom. Still became known as “Father of the Underground Railroad” who helped scores of individuals and families break free from bondage and who carefully documented the former slaves’ quest for liberty with detailed interviews and records so that families and friends might have a chance to locate one another. Still’s chronicles of the travelers on the Underground Railroad later became available to the public when he published all of the information in a journal titled, “The Underground Rail Road: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, [et cetera], Narrating the Hardships, Hairbreadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom“.
Today, many Still descendents will tell the story of how one day while Mr. Still was interviewing someone who had recently escaped from slavery, William Still was shocked to discover he was speaking with his long-lost brother, Peter Still. William introduced his brother to all of the family and a reunion tradition was born in 1870 to commemorate the reunification of the family after the end of Slavery. Now, one of the many traditions of the Still Reunions is sharing family history and memories of the ancestors.
Clarence Clem Still, a family patriarch who hosted the annual reunions for over 30 years, passed away in May 2012. Family members paid tribute to him by wearing t-shirts with his image. His sons, Clarence Still III and Reggie Still, continue to carry on the legacy of their father with family stories, tributes, and dance.
Still family members will often begin their reunion with a service at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, and then descend upon Clarence and Reggie’s home for food, music, dancing, storytelling, children’s playhouse, and that family reunion staple . . . the Electric Slide. The DDFR Roadshow team had the opportunity to interview many Still family members for the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow, where they discussed the importance of family, history, and photography. Excerpts from the Still Family Reunion Interviews will be available on DDFRtv in the autumn of 2012.
Another tradition of the Still Family Reunion is a visit to the The Benson History Museum, a multicultural museum founded by Reverend James A. Benson, where history comes to life through photographs, articles, artifacts and a library of over 25,000 rare and classic books. The Stills family history and the Underground Railroad is well documented at the Museum.
The Digital Diaspora Family Reunion team is proud and honored to have had the opportunity to participate in the great American tradition of the Still Family Reunion!