Wednesday, January 26, 2011

African American Women's Activism in the Mountain State Lecture Feb. 1, 2011

Dr. Lois Lucas will present "African American Women's Activism in the Mountain State" at the monthly Tuesday evening lecture in the Archives and History Library at 6:00 p.m. on February 1, 2011. Using as examples Memphis T. Garrison, Elizabeth S. Drewry, Lucile S. Meadows, and Mildred M. Batemen, Lucas will explore the role blacks played in the history of the state. These four women were agents of change, pioneers in their fields, according to Lucas. Their activism represents a long tradition that has been established among blacks in West Virginia, while at the same time illustrating the complexity of race relations in the southern West Virginia coal fields and in the entire state.

Garrison was a strong civil rights advocate in the 1920s and 1930s and 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 was the first African American woman elected to the West Virginia state legislature. Elected in 1950, she did not shy away from controversy but tended to support and introduce legislation that favored wage workers, women, and health improvement rather than legislation that focused on racial equality. Meadows was a noted and effective educator who worked to bridge the gap between the races, beginning in the classroom. Although she held considerable political clout in the Democratic Party, she chose not to run for election to the legislature at the end of an appointive term in the 1990s. Unlike the other women, Bateman, who is still alive, is a medical doctor and was the first African American woman to serve as the head of a state department--the Department of Mental Health. She was seemingly less vocal in the public sphere than the other three; yet, her style of activism yielded significant results nonetheless.

Lois Lucas is an associate professor of history at West Virginia State University in Institute, where she teaches American, African American, and world history courses. She received her bachelors and masters degrees from North Carolina Central University and her doctorate from the University of Kentucky. Lucas wrote her dissertation on "African American Women's Activism in West Virginia." She is the author of five published essays.

All Archives and History workshop and lecture sessions are free and the public is invited to attend. On February 1, the library will close at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m. for participants only. Advance registration for the lecture is not required, but is encouraged to help plan seating arrangements and supplies for the session. To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, library manager, by e-mail at or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

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