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The Wheeling Memory Project: Ann Thomas

Growing Up in Jim Crow Wheeling

Series One of The Wheeling Memory Project features Ann Prince Thomas, a pioneer and witness to history. She was just six months old when her mother moved to Wheeling from a North Carolina tobacco farm to help Ann’s aunt and uncle run the New Dixie Restaurant on Chapline Street in the middle of what was, at the time, an established African-American neighborhood.

Learn about the Ann Thomas Memorial lecture Series.

Ann ThomasAnn grew up during the era of “Jim Crow” (government sanctioned, racial segregation) and witnessed the turbulent transition to desegregation. From first grade, she attended Lincoln (Wheeling’s segregated school), but thanks to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), she graduated from Wheeling High School in 1956.

After graduation, Ann enrolled in the Ohio Valley General Hospital’s school of nursing, and in 1959, she became the first African American to graduate.

Read an introduction to Ann presented by Dr. Larry Jones, retired Superintendent of Ohio County of Schools, for an event at the YWCA.

The Wheeling Memory Project is pleased to present Ann Thomas’s story, in her own words.


Ann speaks about what brought her family to Wheeling and what it was like growing up in the Jim Crow era.



Ann talks about her school days and how the 1954 Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education changed her life.



Ann talks about the difference growing up on the Ohio side of the Ohio River made to her husband, Clyde Thomas.



Following the Brown V. Board of Education decision and the integration of Wheeling schools, Ann recalls racial discrimination still existing in local restaurants.


More videos are coming soon in this series. Check back regularly for updates.

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