February is Black History Month. The month is designated as a time to bring awareness to the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans all around the country, and that is no different in the state of
West Virginia has been home to some of the most significant African-American figures in the country, including Carter G. Woodson.
Woodson, who the U.S. Department of State recognizes as the "father of black history," spent most of his formative years in the state. Woodson attended Douglass High School in Huntington after growing up in Fayette County.
He also served as dean of what is now West Virginia State University, one of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state along with Bluefield State
College. In 1926, Woodson began "Negro History Week," the precursor to what we now know as Black History Month.
Another important Black historical figure, Booker T. Washington, grew up in the state of West Virginia. According to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Washington’s family moved to Kanawha County during the Civil War. Washington lived in and later returned to the town of Malden to teach, and it was during this time that he began to raise his profile as a prominent leader within the Black community at the time.
Washington’s boyhood home in Malden has been rebuilt and preserved as a historical site, and Washington also played a part in the founding of West Virginia State University, then known as West Virginia Collegiate Institute.
Many may have the assumption that West Virginia is primarily a "white" state, and the numbers suggest that to be true. According to the 2016 Census, 93.6 percent of the state’s citizens were white, compared to only 3.6
However, it is important to note that individuals like Woodson and Washington laid the foundation for diverse institutions like West Virginia University. Their achievements-in and out of the state of West Virginia-are vital to the country and world that we live in today.