The topic on June 18 will be education and there will be a number of presentations, including one by Charles Ledbetter, a retired history professor at West Virginia State University. Ledbetter wrote a history of how West Virginia State College (which became WVSU) played a role as a predecessor to the famous Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.
Ledbetter wrote that in 1939 WVSC was the first of six historically black colleges to establish an aeronautics program, predating the Tuskegee Institute and others.
WVSC was selected in part because it was next to Charleston's municipal airport at the time, Wertz Field.
In 1942, Union Carbide bought land near WVSC to build a chemical plant, and the city closed Wertz Field and moved the airport.
That summer, the federal government canceled pilot training programs at all six historically black colleges and consolidated all those programs at Tuskegee Air Field in Alabama.
English said the state Division of Culture and History, which is planning the Sesquicentennial, has been very supportive of the supplemental events and he hopes that the events will have a lasting impact.
"In a state where we have 3.5 percent African-Americans, it is easy to be in a situation of marginal visibility. We've seen that happen over and over again as groups convene that affect our lives politically, educationally, culturally," English said. "This is another way of establishing that presence that hopefully will have a longer term effect."
For more information on "The Black Presence in West Virginia," see: http://www.wvculture.org/wv150/juneteenth.html.
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.