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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


Seven hundred blacks crowded into a makeshift tent camp in Harpers Ferry. In the filthy conditions, diseases spread and infant fatality soared.

“We have a colored population huddled together with almost nowhere to live and nothing to live on.” Nathan Brackett

Following the war, twenty nine year old, Nathan Cook Brackett was sent to Harpers Ferry by the Freewill Baptist Home Mission Society of Maine to open schools for ex-slaves. “We have the honor of occupying the ground, he said, where John Brown made himself immortal.” Yet, Brackett found himself unwelcome.

“People are exceedingly hostile to any measure that benefits the colored people, especially a school. Threats of violence had been made against anyone who attempts to establish a ‘nigger school’.”

With help from black residents, Brackett set up a classroom in the Federal Armory Building in Harpers Ferry and found space for two more schools in Martinsburg and Charles Town. He requested teachers be sent from Maine.

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