On display at Carnegie Hall Jan. 8 through Feb. 26, in the Museum and Auditorium galleries is “Invisible Roots and Legends: A Photographic view of African American History in the Greenbrier Valley, WV.”
Photography came into its own during the Civil War, and for many years remained the purview of the wealthy. Before then there were few photographs of anyone or thing, especially of African Americans. Finding photographs which exist and using them to tell the heretofore “invisible” history of African Americans in the Greenbrier Valley is the focus of “Invisible Roots and Legends.” The exhibit consists of a collection of photographs and artifacts from post Civil War to the 21st century of African Americans who have contributed to the growth and development of this area in business, military, religion, education, sports, politics, and entertainment as well as general family life. Included in the exhibit, on loan from the WV Division of Culture and History, will be the medal for Henry Clay of the 45th United States Colored Troops, who served the Union army as a black Appalachian unit in the last year of the Civil War.
Lewisburg resident, Janice Cooley, exhibit curator, said, “I have a passion for the history of African Americans in this area. My own roots go deep here, and I realized that so many of my contemporaries as well as the younger generations had no idea of the struggles and achievements of our ancestors. If this information is not preserved, it will soon be lost.”
An opening reception will be held on Friday, Jan. 8, from 5-8 p.m. A brief presentation will be held on stage at 6 p.m. with a performance by the Mt. Tabor Choir immediately following at 6:30. The evening’s events are free and open to the public.
Other free programming in conjunction with the exhibit includes a reading and discussion of the popular children’s book “Ruth and the Green Book” by author Calvin Alexander Ramsey. This special story time event will be held on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 11 a.m. at the Greenbrier County Library. Join Ramsey as he explores Ruth’s story, a tale of a young girl traveling in the early ‘50s from Chicago to Alabama to visit her grandmother. While Ruth is a fictional character, the Green Book and its role in helping a generation of African American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow are historical fact.
Also in conjunction with the exhibit is a free showing of the film “The Butler” starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, on Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Hamilton Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. The 2013 drama/biography tells the extraordinary tale of Cecil Gaines. After leaving the South as a young man and finding employment at an elite hotel in Washington, DC, Gaines gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he is hired as a butler at the White House. Over the course of three decades, Cecil has a front-row seat to history and the inner workings of the Oval Office. However, his commitment to his “First Family” leads to tension at home, alienating his wife and causing conflict with his anti-establishment son.
Exhibits are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. To find out more about Carnegie Hall’s exhibits or other programming, call 304-645-7917 or visit www.carnegiehallwv.org.
Carnegie Hall’s exhibits are presented with financial assistance from the WV Division of Culture and History, and the National Endowment of the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts.