West Virginia will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its statehood on Thursday, June 20. The sesquicentennial deserves to be celebrated, for the state's history is mighty unusual.
But it's a much richer history than just those facts communicate. Thanks to the Tuesday Morning Group of Charleston, the history of the state's African-American citizens will play a central role in celebrating the state's history as well.
The Celebration of Juneteenth - "The Black Presence in West Virginia" - takes its name from June 19, 1865. That was the day federal troops actually freed slaves in Galveston, Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation said this was law.
West Virginia's Juneteenth celebration was to begin Sunday with "A Community Forum & Celebration" at the Cultural Center.
The celebration continues this week:
* At 6 p.m. today at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School, "The Black Presence in Politics for Social Change," begins with the Rev. Matthew J. Watts moderating.
Presenters include attorneys Tom Rodd on J.R. Clifford and other advocates of social justice; Larry L. Rowe on Booker T. Washington's legacy of self help; and a clip from "The Teacher," a documentary on Mary C. Snow.
* At 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Fine Arts Building at West Virginia State College, "The Black Presence in Educational Achievement" will begin.
Presenters include professors emeriti Ancella Bickley and retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Ledbetter of West Virginia State University; Joe William Trotter Jr., a native of McDowell County and professor at Carnegie Mellon University; and Ralph Miller of the Charleston Community & Family Development Corp. on closing the educational gap.
* At 7 p.m. Wednesday, in cooperation with the Charleston Black Ministerial Alliance, it's "A Juneteenth Revival Celebration" at First Baptist Church of Charleston with Executive Director Arley Ray Johnson of Advocates for the Other America."
The sponsoring groups are correct that the story of African-American residents has been only marginally visible to their fellow West Virginians.
The Juneteenth celebration is a way to begin telling West Virginia history as it should be - in its fullness.