W.Va. Civil Rights Pioneer to be Featured on U.S. Stamp

February 04, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – J.R. Clifford, who was West Virginia’s first African-American attorney, will be included in a special U.S. Postal Service Commemorative Stamp Set that honors civil rights pioneers.


Schoolchildren and the general public are invited to attend a Feb. 20 ceremony showcasing the stamp series in the West Virginia Cultural Center Theater on the Capitol Complex in Charleston beginning at 11:30 a.m. The event also will include an educational presentation about Clifford and a reception.  To participate, contact Julie Palas at (304) 345-7673 or at jrcliffordproject@saveblackwater.org, or notify Karen Larry at (304)558-2118 or klarry@access.k12.wv.us.


Clifford represented Carrie Williams, a Tucker County African-American schoolteacher in a landmark West Virginia civil rights case, Williams v. Board of Education (W.Va. 1898). The Williams case established the right of the children of African- American workers in Henry Gassaway Davis’ Tucker County coal mines to school terms of equal length as those enjoyed by white children. The Williams case also established the right of African-American schoolteachers in West Virginia to equal pay. The ruling was the first in the country against racial discrimination in school terms and teacher pay.


Clifford also was a Civil War veteran and an educator who established the state’s first black newspaper in 1882. Five years later in 1887, he became the first African-American to pass the West Virginia bar examination.  In 1905, he joined W. E. B. DuBois in founding the Niagara Movement, the precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 


The stamp celebration is co-sponsored by the Friends of Blackwater, sponsor of the J. R. Clifford Project;  the West Virginia Humanities Council; the West Virginia State Bar; the West Virginia Department of Education; the Mountain State Bar; the Charleston Chapter of the NAACP; the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts; and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. 


For more information, contact Julie Palas at (304) 345-7673 or the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.

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