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Book Describing Charleston's African-American History Reprinted

Anthony Kinzer, executive director of the West Virginia Center for African-American Art & Culture, and Anna Gilmer, co-author of the 1989 book Black Past celebrate the reprinting of the historic book about Charleston's African American history.
Roxy Todd
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A rare book that explores the story of Charleston’s African-American history has been reprinted. The release was announced at an event Monday, hosted by the West Virginia Center for African American Art and Culture. 

The book, Black Past, is one of the only published documents exploring Charleston’s African-American history. Copies were hard to find for years. The book includes stories and photographs of African-American owned-businesses, churches and schools from past generations. The book’s co-author, Anna E. Gilmer, 93, says she’s delighted to see her book reprinted, nearly 30 years after it was originally published.

It took more than a decade to obtain permission from the two authors and their families to reprint the book, said Anthony Kinzer, executive director of the West Virginia Center for African-American Art & Culture, the organization responsible for the reprint edition.

“I think a younger generation, and a wider audience, would love to understand who these people were and what they had to endure to accomplish what they did,” he said.

Kinzer said much of Charleston’s African-American community was disrupted by urban renewal in the 1960s and an interstate exit that in the 1970s was constructed right through the heart of where many African-American-owned businesses and schools once existed. Black Past, he says, is a tribute to that history, and to the memory of the rich African-American community that once thrived throughout West Virginia’s capital city.

Black Past is available for sale at Taylor Books and the Capitol Market in Charleston, as well as through the West Virginia Center for African American Art and Culture.

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