The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 26, 2013

Dubois on Main marking history

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

MOUNT HOPE — A historic plaque from Fayette County’s all-black high school is coming back into the spotlight after decades of obscurity.

A commemoration ceremony, historic presentation and celebration of the plaque’s re-emergence will be held Feb. 2 at DuBois on Main, a museum and community space in Mount Hope dedicated to the heritage of DuBois High School, which was open from 1919 to 1956.

Before it housed an integrated Mount Hope High School and before it emptied of students due to consolidation, the school building in East Mount Hope housed DuBois.

After integration, the plaque that identified the building as DuBois was covered over by a trophy case.  In the late 1960s, black students even staged a walk-out in protest, according to Jean Evansmore, the museum’s president.

Football players moved the trophy case to reveal the plaque, but it was quickly repositioned.

“Students going to that school did not know they were in what was DuBois High School. ... They would have seen no evidence of it,” says Evansmore.

A white student recently told her the story of seeing a group of black students who had walked out in protest standing outside the school one day. When he went downstairs for lunch, he saw the plaque because the case had been moved.

“Somebody organized it, and they followed through on the plan. I marvel at that. That’s great,” says Evansmore. “That’s people taking charge. Somebody’s got to step up to the plate.”

This act is similar to what Evansmore says was the intentional destruction of the previous DuBois building by parents and teachers who were frustrated by a lack of response from authorities to the need for a new building. The old school in Mount Hope burned in 1950.

While the new school was being built, students attended class in stores, temporary buildings and churches for three and a half years.

Evansmore expects some of those students to be in attendance at the Feb. 2 event, which will be held almost 59 years to the date that the new school opened on Feb. 1, 1954.

The ceremony and celebrations will run from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the museum’s building at 116 Main St., Mount Hope.

Food and music from jazz pianist Nate Shelton, who recently donated a piano to DuBois on Main, are also planned.

The plaque was previously in Mount Hope’s Mustang Memorabilia Room on Main Street. Mount Hope Heritage and Hope is donating it to DuBois On Main.

The celebration kicks off a month’s worth of activities at the museum related to Fayette County’s black history.

On Feb. 16 from 1 to 3 p.m., Danny Wright — historian, Fayette County circuit clerk and a DuBois On Main board member — will share the history of four black legislators from Fayette County who served in the House of Delegates from 1896 to 1918.

Then on Feb. 23, an exhibit on “The Bowles Family” will be revealed. William and Annie Bowles lived on Mound Street in Mount Hope. Both William, born in 1873 in Coalburg, and Annie, born in 1885, were school teachers at black schools in southern West Virginia. They married in 1912.

About 15 years ago, Evansmore was given a garbage bag full of diplomas, awards, report cards, photographs and other documents related to the Bowles family. For years, she has served as the historian for the DuBois Reunion, which happens every year in Beckley and attracts alumni from all over the country.

“You will learn so many little interesting facts from that collection because of those many documents that were kept,” says Evansmore.

DuBois On Main is currently holding a membership drive. For a $10 yearly fee, members receive newsletter updates, a copy of the annual report and attendance at the annual meeting in October.

To request an application, call 304-578-7707, e-mail DuBoison116Main@gmail.com, or stop by the museum at 116 Main St. in Mount Hope. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

More information about DuBois on Main can be found at http://www.facebook.com/DuboisOnMain or, in coming weeks, at duboisonmain.org.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com