To celebrate Black History Month, West Virginia Independence Hall Museum in downtown Wheeling will present a program on the Underground Railroad on Saturday, Feb. 2, from 10 a.m. - noon. The program is free and open to the public.
John Mattox, curator of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio, will present a “Freedom Seekers” program for all ages. Mattox will tell true stories about slaves who tried to escape to freedom before the Civil War.
Ohio was an important avenue for what is known as the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad Museum houses a collection of more than 9,500 artifacts reflecting local and national history relating to the days of slavery and its subsequent abolition. It features an extensive collection of publications, books, memorabilia and other articles. The exhibits portray what is known about slavery and the Underground Railroad in Ohio and features an understanding of the culture in the 1800s.
Mattox attended Houston Tillitson College in Austin, Texas, and majored in sociology and psychology. He has been active in numerous community organizations including the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program; president of the Special Wish Foundation, Inc., Upper Ohio Valley Wheeling Chapter; co-chair of the African American Cultural Committee at Ohio University-Eastern Campus; historian of the Friends of Freedom Society in Columbus, Ohio; and member of the NAACP in the Ohio Valley; among others. Mattox was recognized as the 2004 Tourism Person of the Year in Belmont County. He was honored for his efforts in preserving an important chapter in American history, and in doing so, promoting tourism in the county.
For more information about the Underground Railroad program “Freedom Seekers” during Black History Month, contact Melissa Brown, site manager for West Virginia Independence Hall Museum, at (304) 238-1300.
West Virginia Independence Hall, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. The facility was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and is on the Civil War Discovery Trail, which links more than 500 sites in 28 states to inspire and to teach the story of the Civil War and its enduring impact on America. Operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation, the museum in open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of major holidays, and is located on the corner of 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling.
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 Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural 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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Jacqueline A. Proctor
Deputy Commissioner/Communications Manager
Phone: 304.558.0220, ext. 120
For Immediate Release: Jan. 29, 2008