The West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism is searching for African American female veterans and wartime service workers from the World War II era to tell their stories in a multimedia project.

The school is collecting the oral histories of the state’s African American veterans and wartime workers so their stories can be chronicled in a multimedia project, funded by a West Virginia Humanities Council grant.

The project will be based on first-hand accounts, memories and personal perspectives that shaped African-American veteran’s experiences, as well as personal documents and photographs combined with archival film footage, text and music.

With almost 30 interviews already completed, Joel Beeson, director of the West Virginia Veteran’s History Project, is particularly interested in finding more women willing to share their stories.

During WWII as the men were called into service, more and more opportunities for women and minorities opened up in home-front and support roles. These African American women took over positions that men had traditionally held and made large contributions to advancing both women’s liberation and race relations in the U.S., Beeson said.

The grant builds off the WVU School of Journalism-sponsored West Virginia Veteran’s History Project, which Beeson directed. Over the last two years, Journalism students and faculty collected more than 100 of the state’s veterans’histories. Students also trained civic groups across the state to collect the histories for that project.

The WVU School of Journalism has helped to increase the overall number of histories in the Library of Congress from 20 to more than 250. All of the histories are now in the Library of Congress, where they will be available for generations to come.

The Library of Congress told us that African-American veterans were underrepresented in the Veterans History Project archives,said Acting Dean Maryanne Reed.So with the support and encouragement of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who initially approached the school about developing a veterans project, Joel applied to the Humanities Council for a grant.

The multimedia documentary will be distributed to West Virginia VHP partners, local libraries and schools. Portions of the documentary will be made available as streaming video on the West Virginia Veterans History Project website, http://veteranshistory.wvu.edu/ .

The DVD will be integrated into a multimedia/printed book package in the second phase of the project. Beeson anticipates beginning the second, or book publication phase, sometime in late 2005 or early 2006.

For more information, Beeson can be contacted at 304-293-3505, ext. 5422 or joel.beeson@mail.wvu.edu , or you may contact Melissa Korzun, WVU VHP Coordinator at 304-293-3505, ext. 5406, or mkorzun@gmail.com