The West Virginia Archives and History Library of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History will continue its series of after hours lectures on Tuesday, Feb. 1, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. The session, entitled “African-American Women’s Activism in the Mountain State,” will be conducted by Dr. Lois Lucas, associate professor of history at West Virginia State University (WVSU). The program will take place in the library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. All sessions are free and the public is invited to attend. The library will close at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m., for lecture guests and participants only.
Lucas will cover the contributions of four African American women in the history of the Mountain State. She will discuss Memphis T. Garrison, Elizabeth S. Drewry, Lucile S. Meadows, and Mildred M. Bateman–women who served as agents of change as they made their impact on the state’s history. These four women fought for equality and basic civil rights, helped African Americans make great inroads into the political process, pushed for advances in education, and helped to shape policy for the state in the field of mental health.
Garrison was a strong civil rights advocate in the 1920s and 1930s who held a somewhat enigmatic position as an organizer and field secretary for the NAACP, speaking out against discrimination, while working as a social worker for a major coal company in southern West Virginia.
Drewry became the first African American woman to be elected to the West Virginia state legislature. Elected in 1950, she did not shy away from controversy but tended to support and introduce legislature that favored wage workers, women, and health improvement rather than legislation that focused on racial equality.
A noted and effective educator, Meadows worked to bridge the gap between the races, beginning in the classroom. She held considerable political clout in the Democratic Party, yet she chose not to run for election to the legislature at the end of an appointed 1990s legislative term.
Unlike the other three women, Bateman is still alive and is a medical doctor who was the first African-American woman to serve as the head of a state department–the Department of Mental Health. Bateman was perhaps less vocal in the public sphere than the other three women, but her style of activism yielded significant results.
According to Lucas, reconstructing the history of West Virginia’s African American women has been hindered both by sheer omission in the history books and by a lack of primary sources. Records often have been discarded without a clear understanding of their significance. Garrison, Drewry, Meadows and Bateman are not the only African American women to have contributed to the state’s history, but they were pioneers in their fields. Each one’s life reveals the difference a woman made in accomplishing goals that served to uplift her race and herself.
Lucas teaches American, African American and world history courses at WVSU. She has developed several courses in African American history for the school–Slavery in the United States, Black Images in American History, The Age of Jim Crow, The Harlem Renaissance and The Civil Rights Movement.
Lucas received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Carolina Central University and completed her Ph.D. in 2005 after defending her dissertation “African American Women’s Activism in West Virginia” from the University of Kentucky.
Lucas has presented at the National Association for African American Studies Conference, the Appalachian Studies Conference and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Gender in Appalachia Conference. She also has conducted workshops at the West Virginia Education Association’s Minority Affairs Conference and been featured speaker for the Charleston Job Corps Alumni Association. In addition, Lucas has published five essays including one in the West Virginia Encyclopedia.
Advance registration for the workshop is not required, but is encouraged to help plan seating arrangements and ensure plenty of supplies and handouts, if provided, are available.
To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, library manager, at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163, or by e-mail at Bobby.L.Taylor@wv.gov. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information about the workshop, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
The next session will feature Dr. Michael Workman, visiting assistant professor at West Virginia State University, discussing “The Forgotten Battles of the Mine Wars: The Fairmont Field” on Tuesday, March 1.
The Archives and History Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. The library is closed on Sunday.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.