West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

West Virginia Independence Hall to present Black History Month lecture this Saturday, Feb. 19


The historic West Virginia Independence Hall (WVIH) Museum in downtown Wheeling will celebrate Black History Month with a lecture by Dr. Connie Park Rice and Sheila Coleman-Castells entitled “With a Torch in Their Souls: The Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist Movement in Western Virginia,” this Saturday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. in the third-floor Courtroom. A reception will follow the program. The lecture, and reception are free and the public is invited to attend.

“With a Torch in Their Souls” examines the quest for freedom in western Virginia, the definitions of freedom that existed, and discusses the relevance of the Underground Railroad not only in history, but the continuing impact it has today. In addition, visitors will hear a recitation of the Frances Harper poem “Bury Me in a Free Land.”

Rice, a Morgantown native, holds a bachelor’s degree in history, graduating Summa Cum Laude from West Virginia University (WVU). Rice continued her studies, receiving a master’s degree in Public History and a Ph.D. in Appalachian Regional History, also from WVU. A lecturer in the history department at WVU, she focuses on African American and Appalachian regional history. Rice also is currently the assistant editor of West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies. In addition, she serves as a member of the Governor’s West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.

Coleman-Castells of Eglon, Preston County, is president and CEO of Sangha Consulting, Inc., and a frequent lecturer at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md. She specializes in cultural diversity in education. Coleman-Castells is an educator and teacher trainer with more than 25 years of experience in K-12 and higher education both in the U.S. and abroad.

For more information about the Black History Month lecture and other programming at WVIH, contact Travis Henline, site manager, at (304) 238-1300.

West Virginia Independence Hall, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is maintained and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with the exception of major holidays. The museum is located on the corner of 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling.

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.



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