Nearly 1,200 local students from first through twelfth grades across three states commemorated Civil War history through artwork that will be on display at an exhibition in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park held this month.
The “Healing Through History: Shackles to Scholars” project, which explores the importance of Harpers Ferry in African American history, was launched in 2016 by Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership (JTHG), and is a collaboration with the International Fiber Collaborative (IFC) and Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park.
Three Loudoun County schools — Dominion Trail, Banneker and Legacy Elementary Schools — participated in the project. The exhibition will be open to the public May 20 to 29. The opening reception is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. May 23 in the park across the street from Harpers Ferry Park Association. This is the largest project JTHG has launched to date, according to a release.
“I have been so impressed with the artistic talent of the students from our region.” JTHG President Bill Sellers said in a release. “There are few, if any, places in this country more appropriate than Harpers Ferry to inspire our students not only to interpret some of our difficult history, but also to tie those historic themes to today’s issues.”
Between the 1850s and 1860s, Harper’s Ferry — at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers — saw the era of slavery, abolitionist John Brown’s raid on the armory, significant Civil War battles, the end of slavery and the establishment of Storer College in 1867.
“It is no coincidence that W.E.B. Du Bois held the first public meeting in the United States of the Niagara Movement, one of the cornerstones of the modern civil rights movement, at Harper’s Ferry in 1906,” Sellers said in a release.
Historical materials were provided to students by Harper’s Ferry Historical Park Chief Historian Dennis Frye, whose idea spawned the project.
“History often is expressed best through art. Colorful imagery and creative contemplation are much more powerful than memorized dates,” Frye said in a release
IFC guided teachers and students in the creation of fiber art pieces that reflected their personal interpretations and reactions to the region’s African American history.
Schools are selecting and delivering works to IFC this month for preparation for viewing. Following the May exhibition, the works will travel to Charles Town, West Virginia during the summer. The works will return to Harper’s Ferry for an October exhibit at the former Storer College for the 150th anniversary of its founding. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a partner in that celebration and commemoration.
The schools were chosen for their proximity to Harper’s Ferry. In addition to the three Loudoun County, schools from Prince William County, Jefferson and Berkeley counties in West Virginia, and Washington, Frederick, Montgomery and Carroll counties in Maryland, participated in the project.
Guests can view the art pieces at one of the three exhibitions:
- May 20 to 29, across the street from Harpers Ferry Historical Association, 723 Shenandoah Street, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
- June 30 to Aug. 15, Charles Town, WV, Public Library, 200 E Washington Street, Charles Town, WV 25414
- Oct. 1 to 31, Mather Training Center (the former Storer College), 51 Mather Place, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425