AfriGeneas States Research Forum
[WVA] African American TimeLine
Timeline of African-American History in West Virginia
1619. In August, the first 20 African slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia for the use of British colonists. Source: Sheeler, "The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900," 6.
1775. On November 7, Virginia Governor Dunmore authorized the recruitment of free African Americans into the British Army. Source: Sheeler, "The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900," 59.
1778. On May 29, following a brief retreat after the attack on Fort Randolph in Point Pleasant, Mason County, Native American warriors attacked Fort Donnally in present Greenbrier County. Militiamen John Pryor and Philip Hammond, disguised as Native Americans, traveled from Fort Randolph to Fort Donnally, notifying residents of the impending attack. At one point, Hammond and Dick Pointer, one of Colonel Donnally's slaves, allegedly held off the attackers by themselves. Troops from Camp Union commanded by Matthew Arbuckle and Samuel Lewis ended the attack the following day. In 1795, the Virginia General Assembly freed Pointer from slavery in appreciation for his actions. Source: Rice, West Virginia: A History, 41.
1832. On January 20, Charles Faulkner of Berkeley County delivered a speech before the Virginia General Assembly in which he denounced slavery on economic grounds. William Lloyd Garrison began publishing the speech annually in his abolitionist newspaper Liberator, as an example of anti-slavery sentiment in the South. Source: Doherty, Berkeley County, U.S.A., 125.
1835. On October 14, John Templeton, John Moore, Stanley Cuthbert, and Ellen Ritchie were charged with illegally teaching African Americans to read in Wheeling. This incident was among twelve such cases in Wheeling. Source: Sheeler, "The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900," 126.
1847. In 1847, the Reverend Dr. Henry Ruffner, from Kanawha County, and President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, delivered his "Address to the People of West Virginia" on the abolition of slavery for western Virginia for economic reasons. Source: Rice, West Virginia: A History, 104.
1859. On October 16, John Brown and his followers seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County. Their goal was to ignite a slave rebellion and establish a colony for runaway slaves in Maryland. The raid was a disaster for Brown. He and his men were trapped in a small engine house and local slaves did not revolt as expected. Ironically, the first casualty of the raid was a free black baggage handler, Heyward Shepherd, who was shot when he confronted the raiders. Brown was hanged for treason in Charles Town on December 2, after declaring slavery would not be abolished without great bloodshed. Source: Bushong, Historic Jefferson County, 179-189.
1862. On January 27, Ohio County minister and convention delegate Gordon Battelle proposed that the new state constitution provide for the gradual abolition of slavery rather than the immediate abolition he had proposed on 2 December 1861. This version of the proposal became the basis of the Willey Amendment. Source: Rice, West Virginia: A History, 145.
1862. On July 14, the West Virginia Statehood bill was passed by the Senate, changing the slavery provision of the West Virginia Constitution to allow for the gradual emancipation of slavery. After Senator Charles Sumner had demanded that immediate emancipation be included in the final bill, Waitman Willey proposed the compromise for gradual emancipation, which passed. John Carlile, after attempting to block or delay passage of the bill, voted against it, due to the inclusion of the Willey Amendment (although Carlile was a slave owner himself, his statehood bill also provided for slave emancipation). Senator Benjamin Wade noted that Carlile's "conversion" was "greater than that of St. Paul." Source: Rice, West Virginia: A History, 147-148.
1863. On January 1, President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in areas of rebellion, but did not apply to states loyal to the Union, including the future state of West Virginia.
1863. On July 15, the governor approved an act giving African Americans the same rights to criminal trial as whites. However, blacks were denied the right to serve on a jury. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.
1863. On December 9, the governor approved an act forbidding residency of any slave who entered the state after June 20, 1863. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.
1865. On February 3, the governor approved an act abolishing slavery, providing for the immediate emancipation of all slaves. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.
1867. In 1867, Freedmen's Bureau officials reported 7 African-American schools existed in the Kanawha Valley -- at Buffalo (Putnam County), Tinkersville, Chappel Furnace, Oakes Furnace, Campbell's Creek, and two in Charleston, with 241 students enrolled. Source: Stealey, "Reports of Freedmen's Bureau District Officers on Tours and Surveys in West Virginia," West Virginia History, 149.
1867. On January 16, West Virginia Legislature ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting full citizenship to African Americans. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.
1867. On October 2, Storer College in Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County, admitted its first students. Storer was the first African- American college in West Virginia. The institution had been established by the Free Will Baptist church as a school for runaway slaves during the Civil War. In 1867, Storer was incorporated by the state as a school for African Americans under the leadership of the Rev. Nathan C. Brackett. Storer trained many prominent black educators and lawyers during its nearly ninety-year history. Source: Bushong, Historic Jefferson County, 267.
1869. On March 23, the West Virginia State Senate ratified the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by a vote of 10 to 6, with 6 either absent or abstaining. The Fifteenth Amendment granted African Americans the right to vote. The previous day, the House of Delegates ratified the amendment by a vote of 22 to 19. The approval of the amendment caused many conservative Republicans to ally with the Democrats, leading to approval of the Flick Amendment, which enfranchised former Confederates. Source: Sheeler, "The Negro in West Virginia Before 1900," 192-193.