On Monday, Jan. 17, The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs (HHOMA) and Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission announced the inclusion of the Greenbrier Historical Society, Lewisburg, on their Honor Roll of Service Organizations. The announcement was made during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical Service which was held virtually this year. The King Center in Atlanta set the 2022 King Holiday theme as “It Starts With Me: Shifting Priorities to Create the Beloved Community.”
The award was presented by Commissioner Patricia Wilson, Chair of Education Department, West Virginia State University, who quoted from the nomination saying, “The Greenbrier Historical Society (GHS) has a history of exhibits presenting local African-American history starting with the Invisible Roots and Legends Exhibit in 2014 for which Janice Cooley, its curator, received the ‘Sharing of Self’ award in 2015. In 2017, GHS sponsored a monologue about the life of Katherine Johnson written by Pamela Barry with Neely Seams acting the part of Katherine Johnson. They jointly received the ‘Sharing of Self’ award in 2018. Books about Katherine Johnson were recently donated to local schools through grant funding.
Since then, GHS and Ms. Cooley reworked the Invisible Roots and Legends exhibit and installed it in newly created space in the North House Museum. It was then replaced by the current exhibit “Echoes of Slavery in Greenbrier County” which explores the impact of slavery on the black people who remained in the area after the Civil War and through to the present day.
A pop-up exhibit about the life and work of Anthony and Fanny Carter, a black family who was freed in the 1837, explores what it was like to make a living at that time in a slave-holding town.
The celebration of the 200 years of the North House from 1820 to 2020 included a book written by Americorps member Sarah Shepherd and featured sections on the enslaved people who worked in the house. The exhibit also contains panels with the names and histories (as much as is known) of the enslaved people who made the house run.
All three of these exhibits are available on-line at https://www.greenbrierhistorical.org/events – exhibits.html. Black History 365 is an educational resource for teachers and parents to provide information to help them address racial issues. It is available at https://www.greenbrierhistorical.org/black-history-365.html.
A Black History Walking Tour of downtown Lewisburg was created in 2021 with 16 businesses, churches, and a cemetery affiliated with the black community. Most businesses were active from the 1830s to the 1930s with the churches still active today.
The programming cited above is unique in the state of West Virginia and, indeed, would not be found in most museums across the country.”
GHS President Janice Cooley said, “These exhibits demonstrate the promotion of human and civil rights as well as tolerance by fostering an understanding of the contributions made by African-American people to the development of the Greenbrier Valley while enslaved and when free. On behalf of the staff and Board of Directors of the Greenbrier Historical Society, I thank the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission for this award and recognition.”