Friday, February 03, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: WV civil rights hero J R Clifford

"John Robert Clifford was West Virginia’s first African-American attorney, a newspaper publisher, editor and writer, a schoolteacher and principal, a civil rights pioneer, a founding member of the Niagara Movement (forerunner to the NAACP), a Civil War veteran, and a graduate of Storer College.

In 1887, Clifford was admitted to the bar by the West Virginia Supreme Court. In 1898, Clifford won a landmark civil-rights-in-education case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals: Williams v. Board of Education. The Tucker County School Board of Education tried to cut the public school year for African-American students from nine months to five months, while the students in the “white school” continued to receive the full nine-month school year. Clifford encouraged the teacher, Carrie Williams, to continue teaching for the entire nine months and, together, they filed a lawsuit against the school board for her back pay. In the end, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the decision to provide equal educational rights to African-American students in West Virginia. All this occurred well over 50 years before the landmark “Brown v. Board of Education” decision and was one of the few civil rights victories in a southern state’s highest court before the turn of the century."

For more information about this West Virginia civil rights hero see www.jrclifford.org.

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