African American History of Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry has long been a major part of African American history, from John Brown's raid to end slavery, to West Virginia's first African American college, to the beginnings of the Niagara Movement. On this tour you will visit several monuments as well as the Storer College campus and some of its earliest buildings.

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John Brown Monument
The John Brown Monument is a stone obelisk marking the original site of the engine house where John Brown made his last stand during his historic raid in 1859. John Brown and his supporters failed in their goal of starting a slave uprising, instead exacerbating national tensions that would culminate in the Civil War two years later, and largely destroying Harpers Ferry in the process. During the 1890s, the armory engine house was moved and the B&O Railroad began realigning its tracks through much of the original armory grounds. In 1895, the railroad erected an obelisk on the site where the engine house had stood in honor of the raid. The engine house, popularly known as John Brown’s Fort, would be brought back in 1968 and today stands 150 feet away from its original location.
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Heyward Shepherd Memorial
This memorial to Heyward Shepherd was erected in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 1931. Heyward Shepherd was an African American killed during John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry on October 17, 1859. Shepherd was a porter at the local railroad station and a property owner in nearby Winchester, Virginia. Shepherd died as a free black man who was killed by abolitionists during a raid intended to liberate African Americans from bondage. He became a symbol to white people who opposed John Brown’s mission to end slavery. Although relatively little is known about Shepherd, whites who supported the "Lost Cause" of the Confederacy came to imagine Shepherd as evidence that African Americans were victims of the work of abolitionists and loyal to the South. The monument has been the center of controversy from the time of its inception, and now appears with an interpretive marker that offers the perspective of African American leader W.E.B. DuBois.
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Lockwood House
The historic Lockwood House, also known as the Paymaster’s Quarters, is one of the largest residences in Harpers Ferry. Constructed in 1848, the structure was originally used as the home for the U.S. Armory’s paymaster. During the Civil War the building was used several times as an army hospital and temporary headquarters for both Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan and Brig. Gen. Henry Lockwood. Following the war, the Lockwood House was used by Freewill Baptist missionaries as a school for freed slaves until it became Storer College. Lockwood House fell into disrepair when Storer began moving operations to new facilities at their campus on Camp Hill. In 1960, the National Park Service acquired Lockwood and restored the structure.
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Brackett House
The Brackett House, also known as the Superintendent’s Clerk’s House, is a historic residence in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The structure was built in 1858 to house the U.S. Armory’s superintendent’s clerk, and was one of four homes built on Camp Hill for armory officials. After the Civil War, all four homes were transferred to Storer College. The Brackett House is named after Storer’s founder and first president Rev. Nathan C. Brackett. For many years it housed Storer faculty and students and was also used as a summer boarding house. After Storer’s closure in 1955, the National Park Service acquired the Brackett House to provide office space for the organization.
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Morrell House
The Morrell House, also known as the Paymaster’s Clerk’s Quarters, is a historic residence in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The home was originally built from 1857 through 1858 to house the U.S. Armory’s Paymaster’s Clerk, and was identical in design to the nearby Brackett House. The Morrell House was one of several buildings gifted by the government to Storer College in 1868. For fifteen years the structure housed Rev. Alexander Morrell, the home’s namesake. The Morrell House has also served various purposes such as a summer boarding house, an inn, and apartments for Storer teachers. After Storer College closed, the Morrell House was acquired by the National Park Service, and currently operates as the headquarters for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
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Anthony Memorial Hall and Storer College
Storer College was the first African American college in West Virginia. The institution had been established by the Free Will Baptist church as a school for runaway slaves during the Civil War. In 1867, Storer was incorporated by the state as a teacher school for African Americans under the leadership of the Rev. Nathan C. Brackett. Storer educated over 7,000 students in its nearly ninety-year history including many prominent educators, lawyers, doctors, and politicians. The Storer College campus is now part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Anthony Memorial Hall is the most prominent building on campus and, like many of the Storer buildings that stand today, is used as an education center for the National Park Service.
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NAACP Tablet Commemoration
In 1932, a delegation of NAACP members led by W. E. B. DuBois journeyed to Storer College’s campus and attempted to place a plaque honoring abolitionist John Brown. John Brown’s Fort, the armory engine house where Brown and his followers made a last stand during their 1859 raid, was located on the campus at that time. The structure was held in high esteem by many who considered John Brown a heroic figure for his attempt to end slavery by force. Storer College refused to allow the plaque, known as “The Great Tablet” on their campus due to its wording. In 2006, the National Park Service allowed the NAACP to bring the tablet to Storer, and was ceremoniously placed at the site where John Brown’s Fort formerly stood on campus.

This tour was created by Appalachian Studies Association User on 03/31/17 .

This tour has been taken 506 times within the past year.

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