LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) — In 1863, West Virginia seceded from Virginia to become its own state loyal to the Union, but slavery was already established in Greenbrier County.
Nora Venezky is the Executive Director of the Greenbrier Historical Society. She said it is important to remember the state’s history.
“Slavery was a thing in West Virginia, maybe not on the large scale many people consider in the deep Plantation South,” Venezky said. “It was here. It was present. It was a part of our economy and society.”
Echoes of Slavery in Greenbrier County opened at the North House Museum in Lewisburg in March of 2020. Plaques tell the stories of slaves in the county and their labor, including a photo and paragraph about the Ronceverte African American Volunteer Fire Department, a department formed because of the slow response to fires in black neighborhoods.
“It makes a bigger impact when you see history on a local level that’s kind of more connected to you and your community,” Venezky said. “I feel like it starts to make a bigger impact to you and making change rather than that larger general narrative.”
Venezky said artifacts in the exhibit are the same ones used on slaves in the county. Their history serves as a reminder of how far we have come, but how far we still have left to go.
“Seeing how systems of oppression have evolved over time and are still in place in our society today,” Venezky said.
The exhibit asks the viewer just one question: “what will you do to effect change?”