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African-Americans in West Virginia


[African-Americans in West Virginia History graphic from WV State Museum Education]

“African-Americans in West Virginia play a pivotal role in the culture and history of the state. Rooted in servitude, their brave efforts would help tame wilderness, build industry and create the only state born of the Civil War.”

<< Here are the topics on this page; Click to jump/scroll down >>

“African-Americans in West Virginia”  – WV Archives and History




A Brief History of African-Americans in West Virginia
A Timeline of African-American History of West Virginia
Celebrating Lives: A Glimpse at African-Americans in West Virginia
History of the American Negro
“An ‘Ever-Present Bone of Contention’: The Heyward Shepherd Memorial,” by Mary Johnson (West Virginia History)
Illustrated Story of Beautiful Kanawha Valley, 1923,” by Edward A. McGhee


Antebellum Slavery
Daring Escape on the Underground Railroad (Time Trail)
“Slavery in Present West Virginia in 1860,” by Barbara Louise Emmerth (West Virginia History)
African-American Population of Present-Day West Virginia Counties in 1860
House of Delegates Proceedings on the Abolishment of Slavery, January 30, 1865
House of Delegates Proceedings on the Abolishment of Slavery, February 1, 1865
Senate Proceedings on the Abolishment of Slavery, February 3, 1865
Letter From Wheeling Regarding the Abolishment of Slavery in West Virginia

>Businesses and Institutions

J. R. Clifford and the Pioneer Press Newspaper
Pioneer Press Editorials, by J. R. Clifford
Establishment of the West Virginia Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium (Time Trail)
“Deaths at the West Virginia Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Denmar” (West Virginia History)
List of African American Hospitals, Physicians, and Dentists in West Virginia in 1922
Bachelor Benedict Club


Early Negro Education In West Virginia
Storer College
“The West Virginia Colored Institute”
Legislative Act Creating West Virginia Colored Institute
“A West Virginia Dilemma: Martin v. Board of Education, 1896,” by Douglas C. Smith (West Virginia History)
West Virginia Colored Orphans Home
Opening of the West Virginia Normal and Industrial School for Colored Orphans (Time Trail)
Jared Arter and the West Virginia College and Seminary at Hilltop (Time Trail)
Civilian Pilot Training Program at West Virginia State College (Time Trail)
“On the Homefront in World War II: Soldier-Scholars at West Virginia State College,” by Louis E. Keefer (West Virginia History)
School Integration in West Virginia
Integration of West Virginia’s Teachers’ Associations (Time Trail)
Violence at Bluefield State College

>Civil Rights

Niagara Movement Meets at Storer College in Harpers Ferry
Charleston Lawyer Blocks Premiere of Birth of a Nation (Time Trail)
Brown vs. Board of Education (Kanawha County)
West Virginia Upholds Anti-Lynching Law (Time Trail)
School Integration in West Virginia
Integration of West Virginia’s Teachers’ Associations (Time Trail)
Elgin Baylor Boycotts Basketball Game in Charleston
Integration of Charleston Lunch Counters (Time Trail)
Integration of The Diamond’s Lunch Counter
“Along U. S. 60: 50 Eating Places Refuse Negroes”

>Legal Cases

Taylor Strauder Case
Brown vs. Board of Education (Kanawha County)
West Virginia Upholds Anti-Lynching Law (Time Trail)


First State Basketball Tournament for Black Athletes (Time Trail)
West Virginia State College Wins the National Black Basketball Championship (Time Trail)
Elgin Baylor Boycotts Basketball Game in Charleston


Biography of Jared Maurice Arter
Fannie Cobb Carter
Cornelius Charlton
Biography of J. R. Clifford
John Warren Davis
Biography of Martin Delany
Biography of Elizabeth Simpson Drewry
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Biography of Hal Greer
Hanging of John Hardy
Roscoe C. Harrison
John Henry
Death of Former State Law Librarian James Arthur Jackson
J. McHenry Jones
Martin Luther King in West Virginia
Lawson Family Genealogy
Biography of Charles E. McGhee
Leon Miller
Biography of Mildred Mitchell-Bateman
Biography of John C. Norman, Jr.
Christopher Payne
Dick Pointer and the Attack on Fort Donnally
Byrd Prillerman
Biography of Samuel W. Starks
Leon Sullivan
Booker T. Washington
Carter G. Woodson

>Collection Finding Aids

Ancella Bickley Collection
Elaine Blue Collection
Ken Blue Collection
Anderson Brown Collection
Lee Carol Cook Collection
Elizabeth Gilmore Collection
Harden and Harden Funeral Home Collection
Tanner J. Livisay Collection
John C. Norman Sr. Collection
Dr. John C. Norman Collection
Norman Family Collection
Preston Funeral Home Records Collection
Josephine Morris Rayford Collection
West Virginia Medical Society Collection
Mary L. Williams Collection
Harriette Wright Collection

Explore WV Archives and History’s “African-Americans in West Virginia” Website for more on each of the above topics


     “His Soul Goes Marching On – The Life and Legacy of John Brown” (Online Exhibit)


john brown title copy

Explore WV Archive and History’ “His Soul Goes Marching On – The Life and Legacy of John Brown” Online Exhibit Introduction – (Table of contents at bottom of the page)

     “Celebrating Lives: A Glimpse at African-Americans in West Virginia” (Online Exhibit)


celebrating lives

Explore WV Archives and History’s “Celebrating Lives: A Glimpse At African-Americans in WV” Online Exhibit

“Segregated Schools in WV” – WV Public Broadcasting


“West Virginia’s all-black schools went away after the 1954 US Supreme Court decision that declared the establishment of separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional.” (3:54/2011/WV Public Broadcasting)

“Civil Rights in West Virginia” – WV Museum Education

west virginia state museum culture center capitol




(4:05/2016/WV Museum Education)


“Celebrating African-American Historic Places in WV”

Kimball War Memorial wv   “The National Register of Historic Places recognizes both public and private resources associated with our nation’s history. The West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office is pleased to highlight some of the historic resources in West Virginia which are associated with black history and which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This list showcases only those sites which are listed individually. There are other sites which are listed as part of larger nominations, such as historic districts. And, there are other sites related to African American history which have not been listed.”  [List compiled in 2012]

<<Clicking a link will take you to the National Register of Historic Places’ Nomination Form or Registration Form for that location, as found on Archive.org’s “Wayback Machine.”>>

Zion Baptist Church, Malden, Kanawha County

Barnett Hospital and Nursing School, Huntington, Cabell County

Bluefield State College President’s House, Bluefield, Mercer County

Camp Washington Carver Complex, Clifftop, Fayette County

Douglass Junior and Senior High School, Huntington, Cabell County

East Hall, Institute, Kanawha County

Elizabeth Harden Gilmore House, Charleston, Kanawha County

Garnet High School, Charleston, Kanawha County

Halltown Colored Free School, Halltown, Jefferson County

Halltown Union Colored Sunday School, Halltown, Jefferson County

Hancock House, Bluefield, Mercer County

Indian Rocks Dining Hall, Reedsville Vicinity, Preston County

John Wesley Methodist Church, Lewisburg, Greenbrier County

Maple Street Historic District, Lewisburg, Greenbrier County

Mattie Lee Home, Charleston, Kanawha County

Mount Pleasant School, Gerrardstown Vicinity, Berkeley County

Mount Tabor Baptist Church, Lewisburg, Greenbrier County

Riverside School, Elkins, Randolph County

Samuel Starks House, Charleston, Kanawha County

Second Ward Negro Elementary School, Morgantown, Monongalia County

Simpson Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, Kanawha County

Storer College, Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County

Weston Colored School, Weston, Lewis County

World War Memorial, Kimball, McDowell County

     “African-American Heritage Trail” – WV Tourism


wv african american heritage trail“African-Americans play a pivotal role in the culture and history of West Virginia. Rooted in servitude, their brave efforts would help tame wilderness, build industry and create the only state born of the Civil War.”

“The African-American presence in West Virginia dates from the 1780s, when European exploring parties brought slaves to the Greenbrier and New River valleys. During the French and Indian Wars, blacks aided the army as it moved through the New River and Big Sandy valleys up toward the Ohio River and helped to stake claims for white settlers. . . “

Explore WV Tourism’s “African-American Heritage Trail” Brochure – (2013) – pdf

     “African American Heritage Auto Tour” – New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

   “The African American Heritage Tour was developed by New River Gorge National Park and Preserve and its partners as a smart phone app to uncover and tell the stories of the many black coal miners, railroad workers, and other community members that helped shape this region. This self-guided auto tour takes the user to seventeen historic sites in Summers, Raleigh, Fayette and Nicholas counties to learn about the history and experiences of the regions African Americans. The project was made possible through a partnership with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, The National Coal Heritage Area, the WV Humanities Council, The African American Heritage Family Tree Museum, DuBois on Main Museum, West Virginia State University, and Visit Southern West Virginia.”

Explore New River Gorge National Park and Preserve’s “African American Auto Tour” Website — (You can “tour” the entire route by clicking on any of the tour stop photos on the website.)

“7 Fascinating Facts about African American Heritage in Southern West Virginia”

west virginia african american historyFebruary 18, 2018

“February is Black History Month, and southern West Virginia has an incredible African American history. Let’s take a trip through time and celebrate our African American heritage.”

Explore Visit Southern West Virginia’s “7 fascinating facts about African American heritage in Southern West Virginia” Webpage (pdf)  — includes:  Freedom and the coal boom; Carter G. Woodson; Kimball War Memorial Building; Keystone, WV; Political influence; The first NAACP chapter in West Virginia; African American Heritage Tour

“Storer College” – WV  Tourism

“John Storer, a New England philanthropist, gave $10,000 to establish the school, requiring that it be open to all, regardless of race, sex or religion.” 

“Storer College contributed much more to African-American history than just becoming West Virginia’s first institution of higher learning for black students. Among the Board of Trustees was Frederick Douglas, the influential abolitionist who was an excellent orator and spoke on campus in 1891. In 1906, Storer College was the site of the Niagara Movement’s second meeting because of the connection to abolitionist John Brown. This meeting brought notable African-Americans W.E.B. Dubois and J.R. Clifford, among others, to Storer. The Niagara Movement was a precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Among some of the outstanding alumnus of Storer College were: J.R. Clifford, the first black lawyer in West Virginia; Coralie Franklin Cook, a distinguished professor at Howard University; Joseph Jeffery Walters, author of Guanya Pau which was the first African-American novel to be published in English; Don Redman, the “Little Giant of Jazz” was the first great arranger in jazz history; and Nnamdi Azikiwe, the former President of Nigeria.”

     “Storer College” – Harpers Ferry NHP

    “Following the Civil War there were over 30,000 newly freed slaves in the Shenandoah Valley. Recognizing the need for education, the Freedmen’s Bureau, the Freewill Baptists of New England and John Storer came together and Storer College was born. The school survived for 88 years, enriching the lives of hundreds of students. . .”

Explore Harpers Ferry National Historical Park’s “Storer College” Website

     “Storer College Celebrates 150-Year Legacy” – WV Public Broadcasting

  “This year [2017] marks 150 years since Storer College was established in Harpers Ferry. The school came out of the Civil War first as a place to teach former slaves how to read and write, and then by the 1930s, it had evolved into a four-year, higher education institution for African-Americans. But in 1955, it closed due to lack of funding. Still, the legacy of Storer College continues to be celebrated each year in the Eastern Panhandle.”

Explore WV Public Broadcasting’s “Storer College Celebrates 150-Year Legacy”  Website

West Virginia Center for African-American Art & Culture”


“The West Virginia Center for African-American Art & Culture, Inc. is a non-profit organization established to provide an enhanced cultural learning experience for all visitors. We are a diverse group of individuals with over twenty years of service through organizational community involvement.  We share a belief in cultural and ethnic diversity—the embodiment of our multicultural society.”

Our Projects:

  • “The Block” Historic District
  • “The Block” Speaker Series
  • The Valley Heritage Tour
  • African-American / Jewish Dialogue
  • Your Voice in History: Oral History Recordings Project

Explore “West Virginia Center for African-American Art & Culture” Website

     “A Walk Around ‘The Block’ ” – Daily Mail WV


“Community keeps memory of historic African-American district alive.”

Explore information from Daily Mail WV’s “A Walk around the Block” story — (pdf)

     “Henry Highland Garnet: Namesake of Garnet High School” – Daily Mail WV


“In 1882, C.W. Boyd moved from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, to Charleston. Boyd would establish a Charleston-area institution named after a famous African-American pioneer . . .”

Explore Information from Daily Mail WV’s “Henry Highland Garnet: Namesake of Garnet High School” Website to continue reading

“J. R. Clifford Project” – Friends of Blackwater

J R Clifford Project wv

West Virginia african americans jr clifford“Friends of Blackwater (“FOB”) is pleased to have added the J. R. Clifford Project to its range of programs that includes heritage education and environmental preservation programs . . . J. R. Clifford (1848-1933), West Virginia’s first African American attorney, is among twelve Civil Rights Pioneers announced as honorees on a 2009 Commemorative Stamp sheet issued by the United States Postal Service.”

“Since December 2004, The J. R. Clifford Project has involved thousands of West Virginians and visitors to the Mountain State in statewide and local educational programs to increase awareness of the life and works of John Robert “J. R.” Clifford. The programs reflect Clifford’s opposition to racism and highlight the supportive role West Virginia has played in upholding American civil rights.”

Explore Friends of Blackwater’s “J.R.Clifford Project” Website

     “West Virginia’s Shining Civil Rights Moment” – WV Metro News

“One hundred and twenty years ago . . . , the West Virginia Supreme Court made one of its most significant decisions in the state’s history on the issue of civil rights. The case was Williams v. Board of Education of Fairfax District. . . “

Explore Information from WV Metro News’ “West Virginia’s Shining Civil Rights Moment” Website (pdf)

“6 times West Virginia was vital to the Civil Rights Movement” – WV Tourism

“West Virginia has been the centerpiece of several key events in African-American heritage– dating all the way back to before it was a state.”

Includes:  John Brown’s Raid; Williams v. Board of Education; Tuskegee Institute; The Niagara Movement; The Father of Black History; First Female African-American Legislator.

Explore WV Tourism’s “6 Times West Virginia was vital to the Civil Rights Movement” Website

“Notable African-Americans in West Virginia” – WV Tourism

A list from approximately 2012.

Explore Information from WV Tourism’s “Notable African-Americans” (deactivated) Website (pdf)

     “OUTLIER: The Story of Katherine Johnson”

“In mathematical terms, an outlier is a data point that is unique and apart from the others. It’s an apt description for a person too, that is outside the norms. “Outlier: the story of Katherine Johnson” is a one-hour documentary about the trajectory of an African American girl-wonder, whose mathematical genius would catapult astronauts into space. Born in the days of segregation in White Sulphur Springs, WV, Katherine’s story was featured in the highly-acclaimed Hollywood movie, “Hidden Figures.” Hear her story in her own words in “Outlier.”

The Trailer   (4:53/2017/motionmasters)

An additional excerpt. (2:43/2017/motionmasters)

        “Katherine Johnson | NASA Computer”

west virginia broadcasting“Examine the life and career of NASA computer Katherine Johnson, and engage students in a discussion of the qualities Johnson exhibited that helped her break racial and gender barriers.”

Explore “Katherine Johnson: NASA Computer” on WV Public Television’s “PBS Learning Media” Website

     “Rev. Leon Sullivan – A Principled Man”

wv african american “Rev. Leon Sullivan has been called the tallest tree in the forest.  At 6’5″ tall, he fits the physical description, and his achievements reflect an equally impressive stature.  Born in West Virginia on October 16, 1922, he was a preacher, civil rights activist and educator who affected change at the national and international levels.  One of his greatest achievements was the development of a code of equal opportunity that helped to end apartheid in South Africa. Rev. Sullivan passed away on April 24, 2001.”

west virginia education“The purpose of this documentary and supporting materials is to inform people about this principled giant and his accomplishments.”

Explore the entire documentary “Leon Sullivan – A Principled Man” on WV Public Broadcasting’s “PBS Learning Media” Website

An Excerpt  (3:39/2009/motionmasters)

“Rev. Leon Sullivan Tribute”  —  “This tribute video produced by MotionMasters is an edited down version of the full hour long documentary “A Principled Man: Rev. Leon Sullivan”  (11:40/2017/motionmasters)


     “Carter Woodson”


“Carter G. Woodson, a graduate of Huntington’s old all-black Douglass High School who went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University, is widely recognized as the ‘Father of Black History Month. . .”

Continue reading at Huntington Quarterly’s “Carter Woodson” article  (pdf)

“This month [February], the nation turns to honoring black Americans for their achievements. Initially, it was a week and now it’s a month. Adrienne Cannon knows all about Carter G. Woodson. She’s the Afro-American history and culture specialist for the manuscript division of the Library of Congress. The library is the keeper of 18,000 items from Woodson’s collection of papers that he started donating in 1929. Everything from a letter from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, to a manuscript of a poem by Dunbar and slave bills of sale and slave freedom papers.”

(2:39/2020/WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore)

     “Bill Withers”

May 22, 2021

‘The West Virginia Division of Highways has installed a new sign renaming a Raleigh County road in honor of a music legend.  Slab Fork Road between Lester Highway and the Coalfields Expressway is now known as Bill Withers Memorial Road. . .

‘ “Our people take a lot of pride in putting the signs up when we have a road naming. That was especially true of this one because of the way Bill Withers’ songs resonate with our workers. The uplifting messages in some of his songs really helped us get through the last year we’ve had.”

‘Withers, who died in March 2020, is best known for the songs “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day” and “Lean on Me.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.’

April 4, 2020

” ‘Lean On Me’ singer Bill Withers dies at 81″
“Soul legend Bill Withers, known for songs like “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died at the age of 81. The three-time Grammy Award winner’s family said he died of heart complications. The singer’s hit “Lean on Me” has been a source of comfort for many…”

(2:36/2020/CBS This Morning)

“A Conversation With Bill Withers”

“Anna Sale talks to Bill Withers about his music and growing up in West Virginia. In November, Withers returned to his home state to be inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. His hits include “Lean On Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Just the Two of Us.”  This segment first aired Dec. 13, 2007, on the program “Outlook.” Russ Barbour co-produced the piece.”

(9:56/2007/WV Public Broadcasting)



“The HistoryMakers”

“By recording, preserving and sharing the life stories of thousands of African Americans, from President Barack Obama to the oldest living black cowboy, The HistoryMakers is a leader in helping to educate and enlighten millions worldwide through refashioning a more inclusive record of American history.”

Explore “The HistoryMakers” Website

     “HistoryMaker: Henry Louis Gates Jr.”

“West Virginia Celebrates its HistoryMakers”


“On Thursday, February 18, 2010, The HistoryMakers project interviewed Henry Louis Gates Jr. and three other West Virginia honorees: Dr. Hazo W. Carter Jr., Lou Myers and Andrea L. Taylor. The event was sponsored by Verizon, West Virginia, and held at the West Virginia Culture Center, Charleston.”

Explore Information from  “HistoryMaker: Henry Louis Gates Jr.” (deactivated) Website (pdf)

     “Because They Deserve It”

   “While the evening was focused on Henry Lewis Gates Jr., it was also about other West Virginians who have made great accomplishments. The HistoryMakers project honored Dr. Hazo W. Carter Jr., Lou Myers and Andrea L. Taylor as part of the West Virginia taping, too.”

Explore Information from  “HistoryMakers: Because They Deserve It” (deactivated) Website (pdf)

African-Americans in West Virginia     WV African American Trail

African-Americans in West Virginia

Storer College    Henry Louis Gates Jr    Booker T Washington    J R Clifford   

Dr. Carter G. Woodson     Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan