The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will unveil a new exhibit about the history of Camp Washington-Carver during the 20th annual Appalachian String Band Music Festival next week at the camp. The show will be on display in the Great Chestnut Lodge.
The exhibit consists of five large panels containing photographs and text. The camp’s beginnings can be traced to 1928, when West Virginia University hired two African Americans, James E. Banks and Lulu B. Moore, to promote 4-H Camps for black youth. Banks and Moore worked on the project at West Virginia State College (WVSC), now University, in Institute, stressing the need for Negro 4-H Camps. In 1928, Dr. John W. Davis, president of the college, started working with the West Virginia State Board of Control and the Boards of Education, asking them to petition the State Legislature to purchase land for such a camp. On Dec. 30, 1938, the Board of Control purchased the land from Charles and Kathryn Middleburg so the camp could be built.
The “State Negro 4-H Camp” was dedicated on Sunday, July 26, 1942. It was reportedly the first camp of its kind in the United States. In addition to 4-H activities, the camp also hosted events for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, homemaking groups, mine safety encampments, WVSC faculty meetings and a variety of private organizations. WVSC, a historically black school, sent faculty to teach courses in agriculture, land development and athletic training at the camp.
In 1954 the United States Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, ended segregation. The camp became integrated in 1960. In 1964, all of the state’s 4-H activities were transferred to Jackson’s Mill.
In 1949, WVSC changed the name from State Negro 4-H Camp to Camp Washington-Carver in honor of two prominent African Americans, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Washington is thought by many to be West Virginia’s most famous African American, although he lived in the state only briefly. In the mid-1870s, he was teaching school for both black children and adults in Malden. During this time, he became recognized as an eloquent speaker and a leader in the black community. By 1881, he was directing a new normal school for blacks in Tuskegee, Alabama. He remained at the Tuskegee Institute until his death in 1915. Washington wrote 12 books, the most famous of which, Up From Slavery (1906), recounted his early life in Malden.
Carver was an American scientist, botanist, educator and inventor whose studies and teaching revolutionized agriculture in the Southern United States. He was internationally recognized for his research in agricultural sciences, primarily for his work with the peanut. The products he derived from the peanut and the soybean radically changed the economy of the South which was very dependent on cotton. Carver developed crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered hundreds of new uses for peanut crops, which became a huge market for farmers. In 1897, Washington convinced Carver to come south and serve as the Tuskegee Institute’s director of agriculture.
In 1978, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History received the camp in a transfer from WVSC. The Division programs a number of events at the camp from musical concerts to the Appalachian String Band Music Festival. Family reunions, company picnics, weddings and other private activities also continue at the camp.
Today, it is a beautiful retreat listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Camp Washington-Carver serves as the state’s mountain cultural arts center. The camp is located in Clifftop in Fayette County, adjacent to Babcock State Park, just off Route 60 (Midland Trail) on Route 41 South. There will be an admission fee during the String Band Festival which runs from July 29 - Aug. 2.
Photographs in the exhibit show early recreational activities like swimming, ping pong, baseball, basketball and archery, 4-H activities, homemaking groups, mine safety encampments, WVSC faculty meetings and more modern events such as the Appalachian String Band Music Festival.
The exhibit will remain on display through the end of September. To view the show, contact the camp at (304) 438-3005 to make an appointment.
For more information, contact Charles Morris, exhibits and collections manager for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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