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The Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture Series

Our 2022 guest, Dr. William Turner, with Ann Thomas's granddaughter Carrie Ann.ABOUT THE SERIES

Ann Thomas was a wonderful, optimistic, courageous, and genuinely kind woman, and a dedicated patron of the library and library programs. After she passed on February 22, 2019 (having bravely battled cancer and endured suffering for many years), we decided to create an annual memorial lecture series at the library in her honor.

See The Wheeling Memory Project featuring Ann Thomas.

[Left: Ann's granddaughter, Carrie Ann, with Dr. William Turner, Feb. 22, 2022]

Dr. Joe Trotter, 2020

Dr. Trotter with Scott Thomas.Our first speaker was Dr. Joe Trotter, the Giant Eagle University Professor of History and Social Justice and past History Department Chair at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is also the Director and Founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE), President Elect of the Urban History Association and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Trotter received his BA degree from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota. He talked about his book, Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America on Feb. 18, 2020. Watch the video of Dr. Trotter's talk on YouTube.

Crystal Wilkinson, 2021

Crystal with Scott Thomas and Sean Duffy on the livestream.Our second speaker, on Feb. 23, 2021, was Crystal Wilkinson, the award-winning author of The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence) and Associate Professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of Kentucky. Watch the video of Crystal's talk on YouTube

Dr. William H. Turner, 2022

Our third speaker, William H. Turner, PhD, is the fifth of ten children, and was born in 1946 in the coal town of Lynch, Kentucky, in Harlan County. His grandfathers, father, four uncles and older brother were coal miners. He spent his professional career studying and working on behalf of marginalized communities, helping them create opportunities in the larger world while not abandoning their important cultural ties. Dr. Turner discussed his book, The Harlan Renaissance, an intimate remembrance of kinship and community in eastern Kentucky’s coal towns. Turner reconstructs Black life in the company towns in and around Harlan County during coal’s final postwar boom years, which built toward an enduring bust as the children of Black miners, like the author, left the region in search of better opportunities.

Watch Dr. Turner's lecture on YouTube. [Note: please excuse audio difficulties for the first 9 minutes]

Michelle visiting our 20th Man Exhibit.Michelle Duster, 2023

For the 4th Annual Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture (also dedicated in 2023 to Wheeling educator Eileen Miller) Lunch With Books was honored to host Michelle Duster, an author, speaker, public historian, professor, and champion of racial and gender equity. Michelle is the great-granddaughter of Civil Rights pioneer, journalist, and suffragist, Ida B. Wells. She has written, edited, or contributed to several dozen articles and over 20 books, including IDA B THE QUEEN: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE AND LEGACY OF IDA B WELLS.

Watch the video of Michelle's Lecture on YouTube:

Alvin Hall, 2024

Our 2024 guest was Alvin Hall, author of  Driving the Green Boo kA Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resistance, Hardcover, Ebook, Digital Audio Book Unabridged, 304 pages, HarperCollins Publishers (21 Feb. 2023),  a journey through America's haunted racial past, with the legendary Green Book as your guide. Mr. Hall is an internationally renowned financial educator, award-winning television and radio broadcaster, artist, and bestselling author.

In the summer of 2019, Mr. Hall hit the road for a 2,000-mile trip  based on information gathered from the historic travel guide, The “Negro Motorist Green Book.” The people he interviewed shared powerful memories of that time that became the center of the book. 

“Singletary’s,” aka “The Dixie,” the Wheeling restaurant owned by Ann Thomas’s family, once appeared in the Green Book.

One of the best anecdotes Alvin Hall shared was surely the one about his friend, an African American man who remembers, as a child, driving through Wheeling to visit relatives. This was during Jim Crow segregation when the Green Book was in full effect, and there were many places in Wheeling where Black people were unwelcome. Yet, the family often stopped at Elby's Big Boy in Wheeling along I-70, where they felt safe and welcome--which was quite remarkable for that era.

Ann Thomas's brother Wade Augerbright, her granddaughter Carrie Ann,  and Alvin Hall.

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