West Virginia Department of Commerce West Virginia's African-American Sites

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West Virginia's African-American Sites

African-American Heritage Trail map

1. Sumner School and the Avery Street Historic District
The Sumner School was established in 1862 as the first free school south of the Mason-Dixon Line, two years before the first public school system was created in West Virginia. The school served the entire Parkersburg black community, grades 1-12. The first high school class graduated in 1887. The school was named for U.S. Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, a staunch and vocal abolitionist. The school fulfilled important educational, social and community roles among the black population of Parkersburg but eventually closed in 1955 when the state began to integrate schools. The Avery Street Historic District in Wood County is a large, primarily residential area that developed as Parkersburg's first "suburb" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Location: Avery St, Parkersburg, WV 26101  NR

2. Z. D. Ramsdell House
Zophar D. Ramsdell relocated to Ceredo from Massachusetts in 1858. A manufacturer and merchant of boots and shoes, his business continued until the outbreak of the Civil War. Ramsdell built the first brick home in Ceredo, a two-story Greek Revival style residence set along the banks of the Ohio River. It is said that he aided runaway slaves and his property was to have contained a tunnel that could hide and accommodate their escape. Location: 1108 B St., Ceredo, WV 25507  NR

3. The Jenkins Plantation

Since 1835, a large, brick mansion has stood sentinel on the banks of the Ohio River, home of the Jenkins family and, General Albert Gallatin Jenkins, C.S.A. His family owned more than 4,000 acres and maintained a successful plantation at Green Bottom, in what was then western Virginia. At Green Bottom, slaves made bricks and hewed logs for the building of Jenkins' brick plantation house in the 1830s. Not all slaves were content to stay on the plantation and Jenkins had difficulty keeping them. Abolitionists often operated safe houses or Underground Railroad stations near the free banks of the Ohio River, tempting slaves to cross to possible freedom. The Jenkins House is currently closed to the public. Location: 8814 Ohio River Rd., Lesage, WV 25537; Contact: Public Affairs Office - United States Army Corps of Engineers, public.affairs@lrh01.usace.army.mil, 304-399-5353.

4. Carter G. Woodson Memorial
Historian Carter G. Woodson (December 19, 1875 - April 3, 1950) spent his formative years in West Virginia, having moved with his family to Huntington in 1893. Working in the coal mines, Woodson read books and newspapers to fellow miners. Subsequently, he developed a "penetrating" interest in exploring the past of his people. A publisher and author, he began the systematic collection and distribution of black historical information. In the fall of 1995, the city of Huntington erected a statue in honor of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, "Father of Black History" Woodson served as principal of Douglass High School in Huntington and dean at West Virginia State College, Institute. After earning a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912, he published the influential Journal of Negro History, the Bulletin of Negro History and a series of seminal books. In 1926, he launched "Negro History Week" which has been expanded to "Black History Month".  Location: Hal Greer Boulevard, Huntington, WV 25701

5. Douglass Junior and Senior High School
The Douglass Junior and Senior High School has stood as a symbol of cultural and educational excellence for the black community of Huntington for nearly 40 years. Among the graduates of Douglass was Carter G. Woodson, the noted black historian, essayist and author. In 1915, he founded the nation's oldest black history organization and the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. The school had an extremely active student life including a camera club, orchestra and sports teams. Location: Douglass Centre, 1448 Tenth Ave., Huntington, WV 25701  NR

6. Canty House
Located on the campus of West Virginia State University, the house was built around 1900 as a simple two-story framed farm house. The home was remodeled in the Classical Revival style in 1923. The university has used Canty House as an office building, as the campus health center and currently is the site of the college's Sports Hall of Fame. Originally the building was the residence of "Colonel" James Munroe Canty, one of the early instructors at the West Virginia Colored Institute. He was appointed as its "Superintendent of Mechanics" in January 1893 upon Booker T. Washington's recommendation to Principal J. M. Hill.  Location: West Virginia State University Campus, Rt. 25, Institute, WV 25112  NR

7. Booker T. Washington Memorial
Life-long educator, Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 - November 14, 1915) spent his early life in Malden in Kanawha County when the family moved there from Franklin County, Virginia in 1856. He was educated in Malden in a one-room school house for colored children. After graduating with honors in 1875 from Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, Washington returned to West Virginia and began his career as a teacher. He also established the country's first vocational school for African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1881. While his education and speaking career progressed, taking him away from West Virginia, Washington remained a lifelong member of African Zion Baptist Church in Malden and lectured at West Virginia Colored Institute (now West Virginia State University). The striking sculpture of this dedicated educator was sculpted by Bill Hopen of Sutton and was erected in 1985.  Location: State Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, WV 25305

8. Garnett High School
One of three high schools built for African-American students (1928- 29) Garnet High School is associated with events and developments that have been important to the advancement of education in Charleston and the Kanawha Valley. Named for noted black clergyman, abolitionist, educator and orator Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 - February 13, 1882), the school was known for the quality of its programs and curriculum. Garnet was prominent for advocating political action to blacks to claim their own destinies. Among famous graduates were Tony Brown, Dr. John C. Norman, Rev. Leon Sullivan and Lewis R. Smoot, Sr. Location: 422 Dickinson St., Charleston, WV 25301

9. Booker T. Washington Boyhood Cabin
Washington's boyhood home is located just behind the African Zion Baptist Church in Malden. In 1865, the nine-year-old Booker walked with his family 225 miles from Franklin County, VA, to join his mother's husband, Washington Ferguson. There he labored as a salt-packer and worked in the coal mines before becoming a houseboy for the wife of Lewis Ruffner, owner of the mines. Originally self-taught, Washington was encouraged to continue his education and, in 1872, he entered the Hampton Agricultural Institute. Extremely influential, Washington was a confidential advisor to U.S. presidents as well as having major influence on southern race relations and was the dominant figure in black public affairs from 1895 until his death in 1915. Born into slavery, Washington rose to become an outstanding educator and leader of black Americans at the turn of the century.  Location: Old Rt. 60, Malden, WV 25306

10. East Hall
East Hall is the oldest building on the West Virginia State University campus. For more than 75 years, it served as the college president's home, bearing silent witness to several historic periods in American education. During the building's existence, "The West Virginia Colored Institute," which began under the nation's 1890 Land Grant Act, was transformed from a small school to "West Virginia State University," an institution of higher education which continues to render exceptional service to the nation as well as the state's black communities. Location: West Virginia State University Campus, Rt. 25, Institute, WV 25112  NR

11. Heritage Towers Museum and Culture Center
Established in 2002, Heritage Towers Museum opened to the public in June of 2005. The museum exhibits are a vital component of the culture of West Virginia, providing educational and cultural enlightenment for all, from preschool age children to senior citizens. The exhibits provide vital historical perspectives of African Americans in West Virginia. Museum galleries unfold the story of Black Culture & African Heritage from life in West Africa, to the history of African Americans in the coal mines. Among the exhibits housed in Heritage Towers are displays of rural African life, the slave auction block and the Underground Railroad trails, the "Jim Crow" era in post reconstruction America, the African- American coal miners in West Virginia, and a timeline of the civil rights movement from the 1950s through the 1990s. Location: 612 Virginia St., E., Ste. 202, Charleston, WV 25301  $

12. African Zion Baptist Church
Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the African Zion Baptist Church became a center of worship for Malden's black community when it was organized as a formal congregation in 1852. Known during this time as Kanawha Salines, Malden held West Virginia's largest concentration of slaves working the town's booming saltworks. The present building was completed in 1872 and worship continued there well into the 20th century. African Zion is the state's oldest black Baptist church and considered the "Mother Church" of all West Virginia's black Baptists. Location: Old Rt. 60, Malden, WV 25306  NR

13. St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church
St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church of St. Albans was established in 1867 by Rev. Moses P. Hall in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brooks, with the cooperation of families living in the vicinity of the Coal River. The first church was constructed and completed in 1872 on what is now Pennsylvania Avenue, two and one-half blocks south of Main Street. In 1884, ground was purchased for the second building, now on the southwest corner of Eighth Avenue and B Street, which was dedicated in 1885. The third and present structure was built in 1921 for $50,000. Included were an above-ground basement, auditorium and balcony. The first service was held in the basement in 1923. This edifice was designed and supervised by the eminent pastor, Rev. J. Thomas Reid. The church was completed and dedicated during Christmas week of 1925.  Location: 812 B St., St. Albans, WV 25177

Simpson Memorial Methodist Church

14. Simpson Memorial Methodist Church
Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church is a focal point of the African-American community in central Charleston. As with all church communities, Simpson Memorial Methodist is significant in continuing the traditions of building economic empowerment and cultural practices vital to maintaining its historical identity. The church building, dating to 1914-1915, is the oldest in the area and still stands on Shrewsbury Street. Location: 607 Shrewsbury St., Charleston, WV 25301

15. Spring Hill Cemetery
Overlooking the city of Charleston, Spring Hill Cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful place of repose. Established in 1869, the cemetery is still active and is one the Kanawha Valley's most scenic locations for bird watching, nature walks and outstanding cemetery art reflected in headstones, statuary and family mausoleums. It is here you can find a towering obelisk erected for Samuel Starks (1866-1908), a prominent African-American leader who formed the WV Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias, one of the leading black fraternal orders. He was also the first African American appointed to West Virginia office as the Librarian. In addition, among those interred are Reverend Lewis "Father" Rice and Reverend S. R. Bullock.  Location: 1554 Farnsworth Dr., Charleston, WV 25311 NR

16. African-American Heritage Family Tree Museum
Dedicated to the preservation of West Virginia's African-American history, this museum has a unique collection of photographs, family histories, as well as household, cultural and coal-mining artifacts. Location: HC 67 Ansted, WV 25812  $

Camp Washington-Carver

17. Camp Washington-Carver
Camp Washington-Carver is a beautiful and active retreat with significant historical importance to West Virginia's black history. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the facility nurtures the cultural heritage embodied in the site since its dedication in 1942 as a 4-H camp for West Virginia's African-American youth. Camp Washington-Carver served from 200 to 1,600 black youth in vocational agriculture, soil conservation, home economics and 4-H standards when it first opened. It survives today as a well preserved example of one of West Virginia's most ambitious Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects. The camp was renamed by West Virginia State College for Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. More than 10,000 people attend a variety of events each year at the camp, which serves as the state's mountain cultural arts center. Location: Clifftop, Fayette County, WV 25942 Contact: The Division of Culture and History, WV Capitol Complex, 304-558-0220

18. Kimball World War I Memorial
The War Memorial in Kimball, McDowell County, was the first building in the country erected to honor African Americans who fought in World War I. In the early years of the 20th century the southern West Virginia coalfields had a large black population. During World War I, McDowell County alone mustered 1,500 black soldiers. The War Memorial also became home to the Country's first all-black American Legion Post, named for Luther Patterson, one of the first African-American casualties of the war. Designed by architect Hassel T. Hicks of Welch, the memorial was dedicated in 1928. Placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1993, the two-story brick structure is Classical Revival in style, with a massive two-story Roman Doric portico on the front facade. This building also serves as an important recreational and cultural center for communities in and around McDowell. Location: Rt. 52, Kimball, WV 24853  NR

19. Statue of John Henry
The legend of John Henry - "Steel Drivin' Man" is known throughout the United States. His life is the basis for one of the world's best-known folk tales and his fame rests on a single epic moment when he raced the steam drill during the building of a West Virginia railroad tunnel. Scholars have tried with various levels of success to discover the real life of John Henry. He was probably born a slave. After emancipation, he worked between 1870 and 1872 as a hammer man or steel driver during construction of the Big Ben Tunnel on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad near the Greenbrier River in Summers County. In 1972, a statue of John Henry was placed on the hillside above the entrance of Big Bend Tunnel. In 2012 the statue was restored and relocated closer to the tunnel entrance as part of the future John Henry Historical Park in Talcott.  Location: Rt.3. Hinton, WV 25951

20. Grave of Dick Pointer - Lewisburg Cemetery
Across from the Old Stone Church is the grave of Dick Pointer. A slave owned by Col. Andrew Donnally, Pointer distinguished himself for his bravery during an attack by Native Americans at Fort Donnally on May 29, 1778. His acts and early warning saved about 60 settlers in the Greenbrier Valley. He fought valiantly by firing upon the attackers and barricading the fort doors. Thankful settlers petitioned the Virginia Assembly in 1795 for his freedom but were denied. He was eventually purchased in 1801 and freed. A stone was dedicated in Lewisburg in 1976 to recognize Pointers' heroism. He died a free man in 1827.  Location: Church St., Lewisburg, WV 24901

21. John Wesley Methodist Church
Also known as the First Methodist Church, it is located in Greenbrier County. Built in 1820, it is a two story, hand-made brick structure. This meeting house, one of the oldest brick churches in West Virginia, was built with Greek Revival styling and features a "slave gallery." On May 23, 1862, during the Battle of Lewisburg, the church was struck by cannon fire. You can still see evidence of where the cannon ball hit the corner of the building. Location: 209 East Foster Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901

22. Maple Street Historic District
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, Maple Street Historic District is a relatively small grouping of individual houses that have historically served the black population of Lewisburg. The area is significant as the only architecturally intact location that serves as the focal point of black history in Lewisburg. Located atop the highest residential hill, known as "Gospel Hill," it contains the highest concentration of intact "worker's" housing. It overlooks the older, more established buildings of the Lewisburg Historic District and also represents a small, working class neighborhood from Greenbrier County's turn-of-the-century boom period. Location: Maple St., Lewisburg, WV 24901 NR

Mt. Tabor Baptist Church23. Mt. Tabor Baptist Church
Mt. Tabor Baptist Church is located at the corner of Court and Foster Streets in Lewisburg. The church traces its roots back to the 1780s, being among the oldest Baptist units established in what is now Southern West Virginia. The present building dates from 1832. Of special interest in the evolution of Mt. Tabor is its transfer from a white to black congregation after the Civil War. Such transfers were not uncommon. However the decision in a court of law that blacks were the rightful successors to the continuation of the old body of trustees was an exceptional method of transfer and a rare legal decision.  Location: Corner of Court Street and Foster Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901  NR

24. Weston Colored School
The Weston Colored School served as the only educational facility for black youth in segregated Weston from 1882 through May 1954. It was the fourth school building erected with public funds specifically for black children in West Virginia. Eight grades were taught to children ranging in age from six to 16. The community had a rededication ceremony for the Weston Colored School in August 1991. Today, the building still stands as a testament to the determination of young people to receive an education and improve their lives. The building is now home to the Mountaineer Military Museum. Location: 345 Center St, Weston Downtown Residential Historic, Weston, WV 26452 NR

25. Second Ward Negro Elementary
Built between 1938 and 39, the Second Ward Negro Elementary School (also known as the Second Ward Annex) represents African-American history in Monongalia County from 1938 to 1954, the years during which it functioned as a school for African Americans and as a community center for Morgantown's black population. The one-story "T" shaped building was made in the Art Deco style and looks much the same today as it did then. Built with a grant from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended the school's dedication in 1940. The school closed in 1955 following integration. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.  Location: Greenmont Historic District, White Avenue and Posten Avenue, Morgantown, WV 26501  NR

26. John Brown's Fort
John Brown, his sons and at least five known black men (Lewis Sheridan Leary, Dangerfield Newby, John Anthony Copeland, Shields Green and Osborn Perry Anderson), attempted to seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859. The intent was to gain enough weapons to arm an insurrection of anti-slavery activists and slaves. On October 18, John Brown and his men were captured in the armory's fire engine house. Brown was hanged in Charles Town, WV on December 2, 1859.  Location: Harpers Ferry National Park, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 Contact: 304-595-6026  NR

27. Martin Delany Memorial
Martin Robison Delany (May 6, 1812 - January 24, 1885) was born a free black in Charles Town. Delany, an activist and Harvard Medical School educated physician, was forced to flee to Pennsylvania in 1822 for violating a Virginia law forbidding the education of blacks. Martin Delany also wrote books and became co-editor of Frederick Douglass's newspaper, the North Star. The Delany marker is on property owned by Star Lodge #1, Free and Accepted Masons, Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of West Virginia, Inc. and is located at the corner of West Avis and South Lawrence Streets. Erected and dedicated in 1999 by members of Star Lodge, it is believed to be the only public tribute to Delany in West Virginia. Acknowledged to be the first Black Nationalist, Delany was closely associated with Douglass, John Brown and other black leaders and white abolitionists.  Location: Corner of West Avis and South Lawrence Streets, Charles Town, WV 25414

28. Fisherman Hall
Located at the northeast corner of South West and Academy Streets in Charles Town, Fisherman's Hall was built for the local tabernacle of the Grand United Order of the Galilean Fishermen to support community development and economic empowerment of blacks in Jefferson County. Over the years, the building has served as a black community center and a meeting place for Star Lodge Masons, John Brown Elks Lodge, Knights of Pythias, American Legion Post #63, church services and finally, a tavern. Legendary showman and comic Silas Green performed in the hall as well as other show business figures. The cornerstone, "Galilean Temple June 6, 1885," is located on the northeast corner of the building. Location: Corner of South West and Academy Streets, Charles Town, WV 25414

29. First Black School in Charles Town
In 1865, the Freedmen's Bureau, working with the American Missionary Association, established schools in Jefferson County for the newly freed slaves. The first black school in Charles Town was at the residence of Achilles Dixon, located on the corner of Liberty and Samuel Streets. Enis Wilson, a student from Storer College, became the first black teacher at the Liberty Street School. The home served as a school until the county began its own system for providing public education for black students and built a brick schoolhouse on Harewood Avenue (now Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue) sometime between 1867 and 1874. Location: Liberty and Samuel Streets Charles Town, WV 25414

30. Star Lodge #1 Free Masons
Located at the corner of Avis and South Lawrence Streets is one of the oldest stone structures in Charles Town. The land, purchased from Charles Washington in 1791, was used to construct the building circa 1795. Star Lodge #1, AF and AM, Queen of the Valley Lodge #1558 and The Order of the Odd Fellows purchased it in 1885. The Odd Fellows sold its share of the building to the Star Lodge in June 1927; however, The Free and Accepted Masons still own the structure. The site was also designated with a Historical Highway Marker in 2003.  Location: Avis and South Lawrence Streets Charles Town, WV 25414  NR

31. St. Philip's Episcopal Church
The vision for St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Charles Town, first originated in the late 1860s. In 1876, it was reported that $200 had been secured for a building "for work among the colored people." The chapel was built in 1887. Until the chapel was completed, the "colored" Sunday School, directed by its first superintendent, Bushrod Washington, met on the second floor of the town hall, a building still standing on the corner of Washington and George Streets. The church also served as an emergency community hospital during the smallpox epidemic in the early 1900s. Location: 411 S Lawrence St. Charles Town, WV 25414

Symbol Key:
NR indicates sites on National Register of Historic Places
$ indicates an admission fee

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African-American Heritage Trail Brochure
African-American Heritage Trail Brochure

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.