Storer College

October 2, 1867: Foundation of Storer College in Harpers Ferry

Oct 2, 2019
Storer College
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

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.

August 15, 1906: Niagara Movement Meets in Harpers Ferry

Aug 15, 2019
The leaders of the Niagra Movement chose Harpers Ferry for its first public meeting in honor of abolitionist John Brown, who’d led an ill-fated raid on the town’s armory in 1859.
E-WV

The Niagara Movement—an important civil rights group—held its first public meeting at Harpers Ferry’s Storer College on August 15, 1906.

The movement emerged from increasing philosophical differences between Booker T. Washington—the most powerful black leader of his day—and more radical intellectuals.

While Washington wanted to work more closely with the white community to improve African-Americans’ economic status, his critics—led by W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, and others—urged a more militant approach.

Storer College, Stephen Mather Training Center, Harpers Ferry
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This year marks 150 years since Storer College was established in Harpers Ferry. The school came out of the Civil War first as a place to teach former slaves how to read and write, and then by the 1930s, it had evolved into a four-year, higher education institution for African-Americans. But in 1955, it closed due to lack of funding. Still, the legacy of Storer College continues to be celebrated each year in the Eastern Panhandle.

Founding members of the Niagara Movement.
e-WV / WV Humanitites Council

The Niagara Movement—an important civil rights group—held its first public meeting at Harpers Ferry’s Storer College on August 15, 1906.

The movement emerged from increasing philosophical differences between Booker T. Washington—the most powerful black leader of his day—and more radical intellectuals.

While Washington wanted to work more closely with the white community to improve African-Americans’ economic status, his critics—led by W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, and others—urged a more militant approach.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s been 59 years since the Curtis Freewill Baptist Church in Harpers Ferry has been open with a regular congregation. This historical African-American church was the main building of worship during the days of Storer College, a predominantly black school that first began as a place to teach former slaves and eventually grew into a full-fledged degree-granting institution.