October 2, 1867: Foundation of Storer College in Harpers Ferry
On October 2, 1867, Storer College was founded in Harpers Ferry. It was established by the Freewill Baptist Church two years after the Civil War to educate freed slaves in the Shenandoah Valley.
Storer was integrated and coeducational from the start. Before present West Virginia State University was established in 1891, Storer was the only college open to African-Americans in West Virginia. Frederick Douglass served on Storer’s board of trustees and spoke on campus in 1881.
Over the course of its history, more than 7,000 students attended the private college. Storer’s curriculum advanced with its students. At first, students of all ages learned the basics of religion, reading, and ciphering. Students later studied industrial training, domestic arts, and education. Its graduates expanded educational opportunities for black children in West Virginia and went on to careers in medicine, law, the ministry, and pharmacy, among other fields.
Storer College survived until 1955, when declining enrollment, financial stress, court-ordered desegregation, and racial anxieties combined to close it. The school’s buildings are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and maintained by Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.