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African-Americans in West Virginia


(“African-Americans in West Virginia” graphic from WV State Museum Education)

“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.”

“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 WV” Website for more on each of the above topics

“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

“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

“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.”


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

Explore WV State Historic Preservation Office’s “Celebrating African-American Historic Places in West Virginia” Website


“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 River

   “The African American Heritage Tour was developed by New River Gorge National River 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 River’s “African American Auto Tour” Website — (You can “tour” the entire route by clicking on any of the tour stop photos on the website.)

“Camp Washington-Carver” (Virtual Museum Exhibit) – Marshall University



“WELCOME to Marshall University Libraries’ virtual exhibit of Camp Washington-Carver, located near Clifftop, Fayette County, West Virginia.  The exhibit focuses on the camp’s early period through the eyes of those who either worked there or enjoyed its facilities as children. The camp’s story is presented through the use of still pictures, audio recordings, transcribed interviews, and moving pictures.

“The camp was established in 1942 as a summer camp for African-American youth. Initially called the ” West Virginia Negro 4-H Camp,” its name was soon changed to “Camp Washington-Carver” in honor of two prominent black Americans:   Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.

“Originally administered by West Virginia State College, in 1978 the West Virginia Division of Culture and History received responsibility for the camp, which was rededicated in 1980. Since that time it has continued to serve as a mountain arts cultural center, as well as a general camp for various groups.

Explore Marshall University’s “Camp Washington-Carver Virtual Museum Exhibit” Website

“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.”

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

“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

“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)

“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)

“Notable African Americans” – WV Tourism

A list from approximately 2012.

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

“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

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

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