An educated African-American leader, whose influence stretched from three US presidents to across the United States, made his boyhood home in Malden, West Virginia.
The second Morrill Act of 1890 dictated that the governor and legislative body of West Virginia establish such a school in their state. A site was chosen in Institute, which was then known as Piney Grove. From there Booker T. Washington's influence on the fledgling school began.
West Virginia State University (then College) officially became a host institution for a Freedom Station on the National Underground Railroad program in September 2003. As a Freedom Station, WVSU's mission is to educate the public about the global context of slavery and the historic struggle in West Virginia to abolish human enslavement, secure freedom and equal rights for people of all cultures, and promote dialogue in the ongoing struggle.
In 2000, West Virginia State College, the Booker T. Washington Association, the Midland Trail, and Cabin Creek Quilts Cooperative signed an agreement to work together to promote Booker T. Washington's Boyhood Home and the ideals he stood for. After the signing, the Booker T. Washington Institute of West Virginia State University was formed to provide the backbone to make the agreement work.
Since then, the Booker T. Washington Institute has held a number of programs and receptions. Some of the programs held by the Institute have included Cooking in the Cabin with Miss Jane, a portrayal of Mr. Washington's mother in his boyhood cabin; Selma and Beyond: Impact on a New Generation with Reverend Dr. Emerson Wood, Reverend Dr. Jerry Wood and Reverend Christopher Wood, discussing the impact of the Civil Rights Movement; History Alive! Character Presentations: Booker T. Washington and Carter G. Woodson; a lamplight Vesper Service in the African Zion Church; the opening of Black History Month at the State Capitol with WV's First Lady and other dignitaries.
Tours of the Booker T. Washington Boyhood Home, the African Zion Church, the Norton House and Cabin Creek Quilts occur regularly and can be scheduled at any time for any number of participants.
The Booker T. Washington Institute continues to plan and implement many ideas and programs focused on Booker T. Washington, his ideals, and the town of Malden.
Booker T. Washington Park
Booker T. Washington, after leaving the area, purchased a 2-story brick house for his sister, Amanda Johnson. It is located straight across from today’s Cabin Creek Quilts. Today, a beautiful park rests on the site of her home. The old bricks there are from her home.
Take U.S. Route 60 (Going 64 East) to the Malden exit; turn left and proceed ¼ mile to the African Zion Church on the left; the cabins are behind the church.
Monday-Friday by appointment
Saturday and Sunday by prior scheduling.
Open air park available 24 hours a day.
Adult $5.00, free for children
An educated African-American leader, whose influence stretched from three United States presidents to across the nation, made his boyhood home in Malden, West Virginia.
After the Civil War, Booker T. Washington, his mother Jane Ferguson, his brother and sister walked over 250 miles from Franklin County, Virginia to Malden. They came to join Jane's husband, Washington Ferguson, who had found work in the saline mines after the war.
It was in Malden that Mr. Washington learned the many life lessons that he used in his later years when he built Tuskegee Institute and with his work for the betterment of the condition of African-Americans. Mr .Washington learned to read, first self-taught from a blue back speller his mother secured for him, then from a young African-American man who taught the first black school in Malden. Finally from Mrs. Viola Ruffner, for whom he worked for many years.
It was through his work with Mrs. Ruffner that he learned the puritan ethics of hard work, cleanliness and thrift that he carried throughout his life. He later said that he couldn't pass a piece of paper in the street, or an untidy yard, without wanting to pick it up or clean it.
Mr. Washington left Malden at the age of 16 to attend Hampton Institute in Virginia.
The lessons he learned in Malden secured a place at Hampton Institute. He so thoroughly cleaned a recitation room that the admitting matron knew he was serious about his education.
After graduating from Hampton, Mr. Washington returned to Malden and taught both regular school and Sunday school for many African-Americans in the town. He married his first wife in the African Zion Church, the oldest African-American Church in Kanawha County, where he also taught Sunday school. He left Malden soon after to begin his illustrious career at Tuskegee Institute. He also became known as an honored statesman and advisor to presidents.
Wherever Booker T. Washington went, he never forgot the lessons he learned in Malden, West Virginia, and his impact on the town, the state and the country are a legacy that will always be remembered.
BTWI Historical Sites
African Zion Baptist Church
The African Zion Baptist Church was first organized in the 1850’s as the first black Baptist Church in western Virginia. The first church was later built in 1872 and lead by its founder, Lewis Rice. The church became the first Black church completely owned and controlled by African Americans in West Virginia.
Malden Cabin and School
The Booker T. Washington cabin and school was built as replica of his childhood conditions. The cabin and school were built in 1998 to match a photograph of his home. Each is located behind the church where he learned to read and write, while working as a houseboy in Malden.
Influence on WVSU
After the Civil War, schools to educate African-Americans began to be established. The second Morrill Act of 1890 dictated that the governor and legislative body of West Virginia establish such a school in their state. A site was chosen in Institute, which was then known as Piney Grove. From there Booker T. Washington's influence on the fledgling school began.
In 1891 West Virginia Colored Institute was founded. In 1909 Mr. Washington recommended Byrd Prillerman, a friend and noted educator, to be its first president. During Prillerman's tenure, Mr. Washington was a guest lecturer many times, and his educational style at Tuskegee Institute was modeled at the new school. Students built all buildings, performed janitorial duties, and studied everything from agriculture to sewing. It was during Prillerman's presidency that the name of the college was changed to West Virginia Collegiate Institute, and in 1915 was given the authority to grant college degrees.
In 1927, the name of the institution was again changed and became known as West Virginia State College. Mr. Washington's influence on the school and the state was such, though, that a bill was introduced in the legislature in 1933 to again change the name of the school, this time to Booker T. Washington State College. The bill was defeated, however, because pride in the college was so tremendous that alumni, faculty and students vigorously protested a name change. The institution has remained West Virginia State since.
Today, West Virginia State University stands as a "living laboratory of human relations," blending a diverse population of students, faculty and staff together to promote education and the betterment and understanding of the human race and condition. Booker T. Washington's touch on West Virginia State College is reflected everyday in each student that comes across its threshold.
West Virginia State University officially became a host institution for a Freedom Station on the National Underground Railroad program in September 2003. As a Freedom Station, WVSU's mission is to educate the public about the global context of slavery and the historic struggle in West Virginia to abolish human enslavement, secure freedom and equal rights for people of all cultures, and promote dialogue in the ongoing struggle.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a not-for-profit organization located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Freedom Center teaches lessons of courage and cooperation from Underground Railroad history to promote collaborative learning, dialogue and action in order to inspire today’s freedom movements. Contrary to its name, The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad but rather a series of safe havens for fugitive slaves as they risked their lives, prior to the Civil War, to pursue freedom. Fugitives traveled from the southern states that supported slavery to the northern U.S. and Canada. Some fled to Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean. Those who opened the hiding places in their homes to the slaves on their journey risked their social standing, loss of property, family, and their own freedom by breaking the law of that time.
The Freedom Station Program is an affiliations service for researchers and educators working to understand the history of the Underground Railroad, and working to apply the lessons of the history to modern day human relations efforts. The Freedom Stations Program offers access to tools and archives, opportunities for collaboration and a venue for ongoing discussion probing the themes of freedom and race in today’s society.
Visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center website by clicking here