When Teaching African-Americans to Read in the South Meant Risking 20 Lashes From a Bullwhip

During the Civil War, Seven Black Men Met in Secret to Found Parkersburg, West Virginia’s First Public School

During the Civil War, in a town called Parkersburg on the western edge of the newly declared state of West Virginia, a group of black men gathered one evening in a barbershop. As Robert Simmons, the owner, finished cutting the last man’s hair, the group discussed starting a school.

Simmons and a man named Robert Thomas led the conversation, which became somewhat contentious. All of the men in attendance agreed that their children ought to receive a formal education similar to that given to the wealthy white boys and girls …