West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

West Virginia’s Historian Laureate to Discuss “The Revolution that Forged a State” at Independence Hall in Wheeling on June 6


WHEELING, W.Va. — Historian Laureate of West Virginia Ronald L. Lewis will present a lecture titled “The Revolution that Formed a State” at 7 p.m., Thursday, June 6, at West Virginia Independence Hall in downtown Wheeling. The lecture, presented in conjunction with the West Virginia Humanities Council’s Sesquicentennial Speakers Bureau, is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the program.

Virginia’s decision to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy in 1861 precipitated the separation of western Virginians from the commonwealth. If eastern Virginia’s secession constituted a revolution, then the decision of loyal westerners to secede from Virginia and create a new state represented a revolution within a revolution.

A separate identity had been evolving among western residents of Virginia for decades, forged by a common frontier experience, and by grievances similar to those expressed by the Founding Fathers of the country, most notably discriminatory taxation and representation policies. Lewis will focus on how the two sections of Virginia came to this impasse and how Union loyalists resolved it by creating the state of West Virginia.

Lewis is professor emeritus of history at West Virginia University (WVU). He is the author and editor of several books, including Transforming the Appalachian Countryside: Railroads, Deforestation, and Social Change in West Virginia, 1880-1920 (1998) and Transnational West Virginia: Ethnic Communities and Economic Change, 1840-1940 (2002). He began teaching West Virginia and Appalachian history at WVU in 1985. In 2010, then-Gov. Joe Manchin appointed him Historian Laureate of West Virginia.

The West Virginia Humanities Council established its Sesquicentennial Speakers Bureau to help organizations across the state strengthen their programs related to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and birth of the Mountain State. The sesquicentennial events will run through 2015.

For more information, contact Travis Henline, site manager at WVIH, at (304) 238-1300 or email him at travis.l.henline@wv.gov.

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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