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LUNCH WITH BOOKS: Black Press in West Virginia

March 28, 2023
12:00pm - 1:00pm

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Black Print culture in West Virginia is rich indeed. Internationally recognized poets and authors hailed from the state. Booker T. Washington taught himself to read the salt barrels he packed when he worked outside Charleston at the Dickinson Salt Works. Carter G. Woodson entered Frederick Douglass high school in Huntington with very little education, graduating in two years. Following degrees from Berea College and a master’s in History from the University of Chicago, Woodson returned to Frederick Douglass, first as a teacher, then as principal before founding Black History Week. Harlem Renaissance poet Ann Spencer first began to dream of reading when she flipped through the Sears, Roebuck catalog in the family outhouse in Bramwell. But one element of the Black experience in the state of West Virginia is often overlooked, and that is Black print culture as it refers to Black owned and operated newspapers. The Black West Virginians mentioned above have been recognized, lauded for their talents and achievements, while those of the editors and their newspapers have been overlooked or ignored.

The founders of the state’s African American newspapers were recognized as community leaders. More than one served their readers as ministers. Editors were also attorneys, educators, and politicians. As leaders, editors took strong stands on racism with topics that included political events, Jim Crow laws, unfair mine labor practices, civil rights, and the military; which often limited soldiers to positions of service. Newspapers advocated for education, community pride, and party alliances that would benefit African Americans. Cultural activities, including church and social events, also filled their pages as did articles by local reporters, wire services, and the all-important advertisements. But editors also faced issues such as a fluctuating subscriber base, the constant need for funds, and personnel shortages, in short, African American newspapers in West Virginia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries struggled to survive. Many were short lived, publishing issues for a year ot two at best. Some papers found themselves shutting down production for weeks or even months at a time, waiting for subscribers and advertisers to provide enough funding to begin publishing again.

With funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, the West Virginia and Reginal History Center, special collections for WVU, is working to uncover the history of the Black Press in West Virginia and digitize the newspapers for the Library of Congress newspaper database, Chronicling America.

In addition to being in-person in the Library auditorium, this program will be available to watch live on Facebook Live, on YouTube, and on the OCPL website's LWB Livestream page Log into your Facebook or YouTube account during the program to leave questions for our presenters in the comments box. They will answer them during the live broadcast. 

Tuesday  |  2022 at noon
LWB LIVESTREAM: Program to be announced


PRESENTER BIO: Stewart Plein is the Curator of Rare Books and Printed Resources in the West Virginia & Regional History Center, the special collections unit of West Virginia University. She is also the Director for the West Virginia National Digital Newspaper Project (NDNP) National Endowment for the Humanities grant in partnership with the Library of Congress. She received her Masters of Library Science from the University of South Carolina, her bachelor’s degree from Emory & Henry College, and certifications in Rare Book Librarianship from the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, and in The History of the Book in the Early Modern Period: 1450 to 1800, from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. 


Lunch With Books Livestream starts at noon on Facebook and YouTube.

Subscribe to the Lunch With Books Youtube channel or like us on the Lunch With Books Facebook page or to receive notifications of our upcoming LWB broadcasts. To receive emails about our upcoming programs, visit our News page, click the "Subscribe" button to sign-up for our news blasts or download our free OCPL Connect app from your smartphone's app store. 

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"Lunch With Books" is the library’s flagship program for adult patrons. These lunchtime programs feature authors, poets, musicians, historians, and more every Tuesday at noon. Bring lunch (to the Library Auditorium or your computer), feed your brain!

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