For The 1st Time In Almost A Century, A Family Reunion Interrupted — By A Pandemic An African American family that traces its roots back to a woman who was enslaved by George and Martha Washington talks about keeping their history alive through annual family reunions.
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For The 1st Time In Almost A Century, A Family Reunion Interrupted — By A Pandemic

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For The 1st Time In Almost A Century, A Family Reunion Interrupted — By A Pandemic

For The 1st Time In Almost A Century, A Family Reunion Interrupted — By A Pandemic

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. For nearly a century, the Quander family has been coming together for family reunions. The family's roots can be traced back to a slave owned by George Washington. The Quander family reunion was scheduled to take place this weekend. But the pandemic got in the way. Rohulamin Quander and his cousin, Alicia Argrett, talked about reunions past.

ROHULAMIN QUANDER: The first Quander family reunion was held on August 15, 1926. They kept a record book. And the record book talked about succotash. It talked about potatoes, cakes and pies, plenty of iced tea. It's always a very loving, very happy occasion. There are a lot of hugs, a lot of talk about new babies, who has gotten married and, sadly, who has passed away. This one would've been the 95th reunion. But because of COVID-19, the family decided to not have a face to face this year.

ALICIA ARGRETT: I went to, like, a family reunion when I was really little. But I think it was a little bit later that I realized how precious it is to be a part of a family like this.

QUANDER: The Quander family is a very old and extended family. When George Washington died, he provided in his will for the freedom of his enslaved people. And one of those people was Nancy Carter. And she married Charles Quander. So this is how it gets started. Your great grandmother, Gladys Quander Tansil, was one of those griots who was a keeper of the story. Her interest was sparked as a child because she went to her first reunion in 1930. Your great grandmother and my father went to college together. And she always had such interesting things to talk about.

ARGRETT: So if you could pass one thing on to me, what would it be?

QUANDER: Well, the one thing that I would pass on to you is that you are the keeper of the stories (laughter).

ARGRETT: Oh, OK.

QUANDER: I have to tell you, the lack of sustained interest has bothered me. I'll be 77 in December. I don't know what's going to happen.

ARGRETT: I'm definitely going to put an emphasis on this for, like, my kids. And as we've seen this year, you never know when your last one could be. And I think it's important...

QUANDER: Yeah.

ARGRETT: ...To capture those opportunities while you still have them in your grasp. And I'm going to do what I can on my end to keep the spirit of the family alive.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATT STEVENS' "FOREIGN GHOSTS")

MARTIN: That was Alicia Argrett speaking with her cousin, Rohulamin Quander. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

ARGRETT: How did our reunions end each year?

QUANDER: Every time the reunion finishes, we all stand. Sometimes you hold hands. Sometimes you just hold the back of the chair.

ARGRETT: (Laughter).

QUANDER: But we always sing blessed be the ties that bind our hearts and kindred love. And with that, we go back to wherever we came from. That's how the reunion always ends.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATT STEVENS' "FOREIGN GHOSTS")

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