Chronology of Black
History in Jefferson County
[Selected excerpts from "An Annotated Narrative of the African-American Community in Jefferson County, West Virginia"and http://www.nps.gov/hafe/history.htm#african]
1732 - The first blacks to arrived and settled in Jefferson county. They were the Johnson family. This family of 'free blacks' crossed the Potomac into western Virginia with the Joist Hite family.
The earliest reference to slaves in Jefferson county occurs in 1738 when, according to "Aler's History of Martinsburg and Berkeley County, West Virginia", it mentions the west side of the Shenandoah river below the fork being settled by overseers and slaves.
By the late 1700's, the institution of slavery was well on its way to being established in Jefferson county as planters in the Tidewater area sent overseers and slaves to develop their new holdings in the Shenandoah Valley.
1800 - The property tax list showed that there were 1,452 taxable slaves in the Jefferson district of Berkeley county. Ownership was concentrated in 329 of the 1,357 families living in the county.
According to the property tax list of 1800, the first
African-American taxpayer in Jefferson county was John Jackson.
1812 - Martin Delany, doctor, author, explorer, Black nationalist, and highest ranking Black officer during the Civil War, was born in Charles Town.
Mid-1800's - In the Harper's Ferry area, both slaves and free blacks worked in mills, mined ore, made bricks, cut and milled trees, made pig iron, worked construction, ran the ferry's, and held various other manufacturing jobs. The armory tended to attract a large number of free blacks to the area to work as laborers, harvesters, businessmen, and fill many other positions.
During the 1850's, slave sales appeared frequently in the local papers. In Shepherdstown, slave sales were held in front of the Daniel Entler's Hotel.
1860 - In the census, a free black named James Rober was listed as one of the wealthiest men in Jefferson county, having amassed $166,000 worth of real estate.
During the Civil War, there were approximately 3,000 slaves comprising 26% of the population of Jefferson county.
The 19th Regiment, Colored, composed of African-Americans from Maryland, was garrisoned in Harpers Ferry to recruit ex-slaves into Army service. The U.S. Army began recruiting and training African-American troops in 1863 and by 1865 one out of ten Union troops were black. 180,000 African-Americans served in the Union Army during the Civil War. 37,000 were killed; twenty-four won Congressional Medals of Honor.
West Virginia was the first state to enter the Union with a constitution providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves within its boundries.
1865 - The Freedman's Bureau in Harpers Ferry was established. Jefferson county became a magnet for former slaves seeking to obtain work and sustenance.
Reverend Brackett , associated with the Freewill Baptist Church, came to Jefferson county with a mission to start schools for black children in the area. He opened schools in Harpers Ferry, Charles Town, Shepherdstown, and Martinsburg. West Virginia was the first southern state to provide for education of African-American children.
1867 - Storer College was founded by Reverend Nathan Cook Brackett. It opened despite strong opposition and threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Storer College was named after John Storer of Sanford, Maine. The money he donated to start the school required that Storer be open to both black and white students, as well as men and women. Storer College closed in 1955.
1877 - The first African-American lodge of the Masonic Order in West Virginia was established in Charles Town.
1882 - Joe Winter, known as Indian Dick, obtained a patents for a fire escape ladder and hose conductor. He was also known for helping arrange for Frederick Douglas to meet with John Brown, influencing the decision to conduct the raid on Harper's Ferry.
From 1880 thru 1900, four of the five hotels in Harpers
Ferry were owned and operated by African -Americans, including the Lockwood
House and the Hilltop House.
1887 - J.R. Clifford was the first African American admitted to practice law in the West Virginia Court of Appeals.
1906 - Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and other leading African-Americans created the Niagara Movement, which held its second conference on the campus of Storer College in 1906.
1910 - The Niagra Movement merged with other groups to become the N.A.A.C.P.
There are a number of small black communities that came into being in Jefferson county during its long history worth noting. They include: Johnsontown, Slabtown, Skeeterville, Mt. Pleasant, Duffield, Franklintown, Dog Town (in Charles Town), Paynes Hill, Gibbonstown.
1933 - Sylvia Bishop began working at the Charles Town Race Track. She was a graduate of Storer College and was the first female African-American horse trainer in the U.S. For years she was the only woman horse trainer at the Charles Town Race Track. She was also a race horse owner and local business woman.
1946 - The Jefferson County Branch of the NAACP was organized and chartered.
1948 - The Paige-Jackson black high school was built in Charles Town. It was named in honor of Mr. Littlejohn Paige and Mr. Phillip Jackson, both long time Africa-American teachers serving the Charles Town community.
1954 - Legal
segregation was finally ended by the landmark school desegregation decision
handed down by the Supreme Court in Brown v. The Board of Education.
1955 - Storer College closed its doors. Today the National Park Service continues the college's educational mission by using part of the old campus as a training facility. [Learn more about Storer College].
1957 - Hampshire
County, Jefferson County, and Hardy
County finally began integrating their schools.
1965 - All the black schools in Jefferson County were finally closed and the school system was completely desegregated.
Black Schools of Jefferson County, WV
Jamestown Black School
A school for Black students was built in 1884 at Jamestown, two and a half miles southwest of Summit Point. The school was located on the left coming from Summit Point close to the road. The school closed in 1911.
Shadyside School (1883-1948)
Eastside School (1948-1965)
Zion Baptist Church
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