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Group celebrates roles of blacks in W.Va. history

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To coincide with West Virginia's sesquicentennial, a faith-based collaborative network in Charleston is hosting a series of events highlighting the political, educational and cultural impact of African-Americans on the state.

"The Celebration of Juneteenth featuring 'The Black Presence in West Virginia,' " sponsored by the Tuesday Morning Group, will feature events in four locations throughout the Kanawha Valley this Sunday through Wednesday. 

The series is named for the holiday observed on June 19 known as Juneteenth. It marks the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, first learned of their emancipation.   

The Rev. Ron English, Tuesday Morning Group event coordinator, said the organization is made up of individuals and organizations that aim to create an environment in which the problems facing the local African-American community can be voiced and addressed.

 He said the group organized the events to ensure that the role of African-Americans in the state's history was not overlooked during the sesquicentennial celebrations.

"West Virginia was founded in the same year as the emancipation," he said. "Historically that connection was already there. Some of the focus should recognize this."

David Fryson, chief diversity officer for West Virginia University, will deliver an address to kickstart the program Sunday afternoon in the Great Hall of the Cultural Center.

English said Fryson, an attorney with a record of successfully trying historical civil rights cases, will underline the themes and goals of the program during his keynote address. 

"He will be connecting the dots between slavery, the state's history and the issues we're still facing today," French said. 

The convening event will have musical selections provided by the WV Musical Hall of Fame and a performance by the Vandalia Male Chorus. Local poetess Crystal Good will give a reading from her acclaimed work "The Valley Girl," and videos on the Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster and folk hero John Henry will be shown.

Monday's event, "The Black Presence in Politics for Social Change," will take place Monday evening at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary. The Rev. Matthew Watts of Grace Bible Church will moderate the event and offer profiles on local civil rights advocates.

Charleston lawyer and writer Tom Rodd will talk about statehood, civil rights and J.R. Clifford, the state's first African American attorney. Rodd is known for writing the living history drama "A New Home for Liberty: Human Rights, Slavery and the Creation of West Virginia," which has been preformed across the state. 

Attorney Larry Rowe will discuss Booker T. Washington's legacy of self-help.

To conclude the celebration's second night, documentarian Mike Youngren will show a clip from the film "The Teacher." The local project highlights the life, times and legacy of influential educator Mary Snow, who, among her many other accomplishments, became the state's first African American principal following integration.

 West Virginia State University will host the series' third event Tuesday evening in Davis Hall on its campus.

A panel of academics, educators and community leaders will participate in a panel discussion on "The Black Presence in Educational Achievement." Panel members include Ancella Bickley, former vice president of academic affairs at West Virginia State University; Charles Ledbetter, vice chairman of the state Archives and History Commission; Joe Trotter, a history and social justice professor at Carnegie Mellon University; and Ralph Miller, chief executive officer of the Charleston Community and Family Development Center.

The series concludes Wednesday evening with a spiritual celebration at First Baptist Church sponsored by the Charleston Black Ministerial Alliance. Along with a program of sermons and music, Arley Ray Johnson, executive director of Advocates for Another America, will speak.   

All of the events are free and open to the public. For more information, search for the Tuesday Morning Group on Facebook or visit

Contact writer Charles Young at or 304-348-1796.

Juneteenth schedule

* Sunday "The Black Presence on the Dark Side of the State's Development" at the W.Va. Cultural Center at 4 p.m.

* Monday "The Black Presence in Politics for Social Change" at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary at 6 p.m.

* Tuesday "The Black Presence in Educational Achievement" at W.Va. State University at 7 p.m.

* Wednesday Juneenth Revival Celebration at First Baptist Church of Charleston at 7 p.m.

More sesquicentennial stories

Legislature to convene for interim meetings in Wheeling

Birthday bashes scheduled all over W.Va. for state's 150th

Film on Capitol adds dimension to 150th celebration

State introduces Sesquicentennial ornamentAnnual Run for Your Life scheduled for FestivALL



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