August 15, 2018

Another big day in history

W.E.B. DuBois, 1868-1963

Today, August 15, is another big day in West Virginia and US history. It marks the first public meeting of the Niagara Movement in Harpers Ferry. That civil rights organization would eventually launch the NAACP.

 W.E.B. DuBois, one of the leaders, led a barefoot march to the engine house where radical abolitionist John Brown was captured during his 1859 raid. On the scene, he said that "here on the scene of John Brown’s martyrdom we reconsecrate ourselves, our honor, our property to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free."

J.R. Clifford, 1848-1933

Also in attendance that day was West Virginia's own J.R. Clifford, the state's first African-American attorney. A major civil rights leader in his own right, Clifford was also a teacher, principal, journalist and Civil War veteran. In 1898 he won a landmark case establishing education as a basic civil right, arguing that ‘‘discrimination against people because of color alone as to privileges, immunities and equal protection of the law is unconstitutional.’’