The 21st Annual Jefferson County African American Culture & Heritage Festival will be on August 16-18, 2013 at the festival grounds located at the Martin Delany Opportunity Learning Center, in the 300 block of South Lawrence Street, Charles Town, West Virginia. The Friday activities include a 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament at noon, a Job Fair from 2:00-5:00 p.m., at the Masonic Hall, and a Youth Block Party from 7:00-10:00 p.m., on the festival grounds. A Health Fair and mammogram exams will be available on Saturday, as well as a parade from Ranson through Charles Town. Other activities for Saturday include moon bounce and pony rides for the kids, a historical landmark and bricks dedication, a black history exhibition, three live bands, and hourly door prize drawings. The weekend will culminate with a 8:00 a.m., Memorial Walk to the site of John Brown’s Fort in Harpers Ferry, followed by a 10:00 a.m., worship service at the Curtis Freewill Baptist Church, Harpers Ferry. For directions or more details, contact Warren Stewart or George Rutherford at (304) 229-7248 or (304) 725-9610, respectively.
A Class Reunion for all Eagle Avenue School students is planned for Friday, August 16, 2013. The event will be held in the Hollywood Ballroom at the Hollywood Casino and Slots (Charles Town Race Track). The evening will begin with a “Meet and Greet” social hour from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. The main event is from 7:00 – 11:00 p.m., and features a dance, entertainment, door prizes and a cash bar. The cost is $20.00 per person, which is due now. For more information, please contact Charlotte Pressley or Linda Ballard at (703) 360-4831 and (304) 267-2640, respectively. Eagle Avenue School was the alma mater for generations of Black students in Charles Town, West Virginia. Although the school was destroyed by fire in 1966, it holds a special place in the memory and hearts of its alumni.
The Storer College National Alumni Association will hold its annual reunion on August 2-4, 2013. The festivities will begin on Friday evening with a buffet dinner at the Hollywood Casino & Slots (Charles Town Race Track). A picnic will be held on the former Storer College campus in Harpers Ferry on Saturday afternoon, and a dinner/dance is planned for Saturday evening in the Ballroom at the Quality Inn & Conference Center, 4328 William L. Wilson Freeway, Harpers Ferry. The weekend will culminate with a Sunday morning worship service at the Curtis Memorial Chapel, adjacent to the Storer campus. All Storerites, family members and friends are invited. For more details, contact James Green, Jr., at (703) 989-7354.
A documentary film on Storer College is in work, and will feature several oral history interviews with past students and family members of former Storer graduates. Several interviews will be conducted at the Quality Inn & Conference Center, 4328 William L. Wilson Freeway, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The project is co-sponsored by Bob Wilkerson, an independent filmmaker and producer/editor for West Virginia Public Broadcasting System, and Dr. Dawne Raines Burke, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education & Human Development at Shepherd University, and author of, An American Phoenix: A History of Storer College from Slavery to Desegregation, 1865-1955. For more details, contact Bob at (304) 532-4233, or Dawne at (304) 839-5054.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation will be presented and discussed by Robert O’Connor, noted scholar and author. Learn how the West Virginia counties became exempt, even though they were part of Virginia, a state that was in rebellion. The event will begin at 7:00 p.m., on Thursday, January 10th at the Fishermen Hall, located at 348 S. West Street in Charles Town, West Virginia. The public is encouraged to attend and learn how the Emancipation Proclamation affected Jefferson County. This is the first of a series of 2013 activities being sponsored by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. For more information, please call (304) 725-9610. Hope to see you there!
Harpers Ferry, WV (May 16, 2012) – The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), in partnership with the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (HFNHP), will lead an African-American History Hike on June 2, 2012 from 10:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. beginning at the ATC’s visitor center, to celebrate National Trails Day. The event will showcase some of the rich history that occurred along the Harpers Ferry section of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). This event is free and is open to the public.
The moderate one mile guided hike will begin with a tour of the ATC’s Visitor Center and end by following the Appalachian Trail downhill past numerous scenic spots and historic structures. At each historic site, a Harpers Ferry Park ranger will give an interpretive presentation about its significance.
Participants will learn about Storer College, one of the nation’s first institutions of higher learning open to African Americans. They will be given the rare opportunity to view the inside the Curtis Freewill Baptist Church and the Lockwood House, where the college’s first classes took place. Attendees will also learn about the Niagara Movement, considered to be the cornerstone of the modern civil rights era, and John Brown’s Raid, which focused the nation’s attention on the moral issue of slavery and headed the country toward civil war.
Kweli Kitwana, A.T. Ambassador to Bolivar and Harpers Ferry, will lead the hike, along with longtime Harpers Ferry Park rangers and historians David Fox and Guinevere Roper.
“I am so excited to take people out on the Appalachian Trail to celebrate National Trails Day, as well as to share with them the historical significance of landmarks along this section of the A.T. that played a pivotal role in our nation’s history,” said Kitwana.
At the end of the hike, participants will have the opportunity to hear a presentation from Marcia Fairweather about her 15-year section-hike of the A.T. Ms. Fairweather is also a board member of the ATC.
This hike is not recommended for children under eight years old. Parental supervision required. RSVP encouraged to email@example.com by June 1st. For more information, contact Laurie Potteiger at 304-535-2200 ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hike Difficulty: Moderate; the hike is one mile long and short sections cover uneven terrain and rocks, as well as steep steps.
When: Saturday, June 2, 2012 – 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where: Appalachian Trail Conservancy
799 Washington Street, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
10:30 a.m. – Orientation: Hike participants meet at the ATC’s Visitor Center to sign in.
11:00 a.m. – African American History Hike: The one mile guided hike will begin at the ATC’s Visitor Center and end in historic Lower Town Harpers Ferry.
1:00 p.m. – Lunch: Lunch will be provided for hike participants.
1:30 p.m. – “Marcia’s Appalachian Trail Journey”: After lunch, Marcia Fairweather, who completed a section-hike of the entire A.T. in 2008, will show a short video about her experience. Both lunch and the presentation will be held in the Allies for Freedom room on the second floor of the HFNHP’s John Brown Museum in historic Lower Town Harpers Ferry.
About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.
Contact: Javier Folgar
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Tel: (304) 535-2200 ext. 117
On March 12th, the Jefferson County Board of Education approved the re-naming of the “Opportunity Learning Center” to the “Martin Robison Delany Opportunity Learning Center (MRD OLC)”. The request was made by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. Founders of the Society include the late Nathaniel Downing, Star Lodge #1 PM and OES PGWP, James Taylor, PM #1, George Rutherford, PM #1 and PGM, and James Tolbert, PM #1 and PGM. The school is adjacent to Star Lodge #1 on Martin Robison Delany Place in Charles Town. This is the second school in Jefferson County named after prominent Blacks.
PM Taylor briefly addressed the Board and was accompanied by Society members Rutherford and Tolbert. Star Lodge and the new MRD OLC are separated by Avis Street. John Avis and Martin Delany were boyhood friends. Jailer John Avis transported John Brown to his execution site in December 1859. Delany was born on May 6, 1812, in Charles Town,VA (now WV). Virginia prohibited Blacks from learning to read and write. Young Martin’s family violated this “law” by learning to read and write. After officials learned that the Delany family had violated this “law”, his mother moved the children to Chambersburg, PA. Delany went on to attend Harvard Medical School, co-edited the “North Star” newspaper with Frederick Douglass, and was commissioned a Major in the U.S. Army in the Civil War by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, on the recommendation of President Abraham Lincoln. The Society will be working with school officials in planning a new sign unveiling ceremony in early May.
Several other events have been planned this year to celebrate Delany’s 200th birthday. PGM Rutherford heads this birthday planning committee. Serving on the committee are PGM Harold Stewart, Star Lodge#1 PM Maurice Ballard and PGM Tolbert. Star Lodge plans a birthday observance and a MRD Golf Tournament on May 18.
The Jefferson County (WV) NAACP has issued a call for descendants of
African American Civil War officer, physician, and Charles Town (WV)
resident Martin Robison Delany. There will be many events in Charles Town (WV) this year (2012) to commemorate his 200th birthday. On Sunday, May 6th and Friday, August 17th, descendents of Delany are invited to receptions commemorating the life of this important historic figure. Descendants will also be recognized at both events. Descendants who wish to participate in these programs are asked to register with Guinevere Roper by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (304) 535-6166.
For a full schedule of events on programs in Charles Town (WV)
commemorating Martin Delany this year, please visit the website of the
Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society at
www.jcblackhistory.org. or www.jcwvnaacp.org Thanks!
Schedule of Events
Date February 29, 2012 -Wednesday
Activity Martin Delany Essay/Media Contest
8th and 10th grade students invited to submit either an essay or media project (music recording, video) on the life of Delany. $75.00 awards to two 8th grade entries and two 10th grade entries.
Contact James Surkamp @ 261-7911 or Antoinette Ringgold @ 304-728-6576
Date May 3, 2012 - Thursday
Activity County Proclamation
At the regular Jefferson County Commission meeting the Commission will issue a proclamation recognizing and endorsing the Martin Delany Commemoration Celebration.
Date May 5, 2012 – Saturday 2-4pm
Activity Forum – Delany’s early years, life in Charles Town
A discussion on the life of Delany in Charles Town before his family was force to flee to Chambersburg, PA
Location Fishermen Hall 340 South West Street, Charles Town, WV
Date May 6, 2012 – Sunday 3pm
Activity Delany Birthday Party (200 years)
The official Delany 200th Anniversary birthday cake will be cut. Local, county and state officials will be invited to participate along with any descendants. The Martin Delany Essay/Media Contest winners will be announced. Party is free and open to the public.
Location Star Lodge #1 Masonic Hall 240 S. Lawrence St. (Delany Place), Charles Town, WV
Contact Maurice Ballard @ 304-820-6236
Date May 18, 2012 – Friday 7pm
Activity Martin Delany(History Alive)
Joe Bundy will present his History Alive presentation of Martin Delany, followed by a question and answer session. Bundy will also give his presentation at one of local school during the day.
Location Fishermen Hall also at one of the local school during the afternoon.
Contact James Tolbert @ 304-725-7852
Date May 18, 2012 – Friday 8am
Activity The 1st Annual Martin R. Delany’s Scholarship Golf Tourney
Profit from the tourney will be used to fund the Martin R. Delany’s Scholarship Fund
Location Locust Hill Golf Club - Charles Town, WV
Contact Maurice Ballard 304-820-6236 or
Date May 18, 2012 – Monday 7pm
Activity Forum – Delany life between leaving Charles Town (1822) and the beginning of the Civil War (1861). Relationship with Frederick Douglass and John Brown. His role as an author and editor.
Location CT Library Lower level
Contact James Surkamp @ 304- 261-7911
Activity Delany’s Room Dedication
The American Public University System(APUS)will dedicate a room in honor of Delany at the APUS building at North George Street in Charles Town, WV
Contact John Hough
Date August 17, 2012 – Friday 6pm
Activity Descendants’ reception and birthday party
Location County grounds, Corner of East Washington & North Samuel St. Charles Town
Contact Lyn Widmyer (304- ******* )
Date August 17 -19, 2012
Activity 20th Annual African American Culture & Heritage Festival
The festival is being dedicated in honor to Delany. Descendants are invited to participate in the annual parade that will take place on Saturday at 12 noon which take place down the main street in Charles Town. Educational, health, vendors, food, festive and other activities will take place at the festival ground located at 301 South Lawrence St. Charles Town.
Contact Warren Stewart 304-229-7248
Date September 15, 2012 – Saturday
Activity Placing of historical markers
A wayside exhibit will be place near Delany’s birth site. A historical sign will be placed within the central city limit. This is part of the Annual Charles Town Heritage Days activities
Location The 200 block of West Liberty Street in Charles Town
Contact Doug Perks 304- 725-2208
Date September 17, 2012 – Monday 7pm
Activity Forum - Delany life during and after the Civil War 1861 – 1885
Will cover the Civil War, the reconstruction era, politics, masonic, death
Location Star Lodge #1 (240 South Lawrence Street)
Contact James Taylor 304-725-7242
Date November 19, 2012- Monday 7pm
Activity Film presentation This is a film on the life of Delany that was produced by Jim Surkamp
Location Fishermen Hall
Contact James Tolbert 304-725-7852
Tolbert, 78, of Charles Town, was presented with West Virginia University’s Martin Luther King Achievement Award.
A story in last week’s WVU News newspaper, written by reporter Diane Mazzella, said the university commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day “by honoring the man who, among his many achievements, fought to make the day a state holiday.”
Tolbert, who grew up and was educated in Jefferson County’s segregated black schools, served as president of the West Virginia NAACP for 21 years, through 2007. The award states that he was also recognized for his life’s work “furthering civil rights, humanitarianism and equality in West Virginia.”
Tolbert, in an interview Wednesday at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, the church he said he “grew up in,” remembered the days of segregation and Jim Crow laws in his hometown. He went through all 12 grades at Eagle Avenue Elementary School/Page-Jackson High School. He graduated in 1950. The building later burned down, he said.
He said even though his school and two others in Jefferson County — Shepherdstown Elementary and Harpers Ferry Elementary — were for blacks only, “I felt we all got good educations. Our teachers and administrators were all very dedicated.”
He enlisted in the Air Force and served four years, mostly in Japan. Discharged in 1954, he enrolled in West Virginia State College, now university, a name change that came about through Tolbert’s efforts. He graduated in 1958 with a degree in zoology and began a 30-year career with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 was supposed to end school segregation across the country. It came to Jefferson County a lot slower.
His Air Force hitch was ending when the court’s decision came down.
“I was still in Japan and I was naive,” Tolbert said. “I thought it (desegregation) would begin right away. People don’t know that it took us until 1966 in Jefferson County. That’s when they finally closed the black schools.”
He remembered how the Charles Town Civic League, a small local civil-rights group, and later the local NAACP branch, which organized in 1963, went to school board meetings for years asking the members to integrate the schools.
“They always refused,” he said. “They said they didn’t think the time was right, that they didn’t have to do it and that they weren’t going to.
“We weren’t satisfied,” Tolbert said. “Both of our organizations wrote to the federal government and they looked into our complaint. They told the school board to desegregate or lose federal funding. They closed the black schools then.”
He said none of the black administrators in the black schools was given a position in the newly integrated schools.
The replacement building for the Page-Jackson all-black high school is today the Jefferson County Board of Education headquarters; the black Shepherdstown Elementary School is now the Shepherdstown Day Care Center; and Harpers Ferry Elementary now belongs to the National Park Service, Tolbert said.
Tolbert said he successfully lobbied to get the name of his alma mater in Institute, W.Va., changed from West Virginia State College to West Virginia State University.
He accomplished that and pushed for the King holiday designation in the state by visiting all 16 NAACP branches around the state and encouraging their memberships to launch letter-writing campaigns to state legislators and the governor.
“I led the charge. That was my job as president,” he said.
“What people don’t realize is the role that Jim Tolbert played in the civil-rights movement in West Virginia,” said George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County NAACP branch that nominated Tolbert for the award.
“Since the middle 1960s, he has been involved in, pushed or initiated every civil-rights bill that the state legislature passed.”
Rutherford said Tolbert was “directly responsible for getting African-Americans employed in positions that they were denied before the Civil Rights Act. He worked with the government to have funding withheld from the local municipalities because they were not in compliance with either federal or state civil-rights requirements.”
In 2006 and again in 2009, Tolbert was instrumental in getting U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd to direct $300,000 each for the commemorations of the founding of the Niagara Movement, the forerunner of the NAACP, and the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Rutherford said.
Tolbert has received other recognition for his work in civil rights, including the T.G. Nutter, West Virginia Civil Rights Day and Governor’s Living Dream awards.