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Local Topics & Resources

Below is a list of possible local topics and resources students can use.

WV & Regional History Center Collections Resources

The WV & Regional History Center (WVRHC) collects papers, manuscripts, books, newspapers, maps, photographs, and many other sources of information about the state. A large portion of our photographs collection is available online at and other are available at the Center. Pamphlets and other ephemeral materials can be found in our printed ephemera collection . Newspapers are available on microfilm, though a small number of them have been digitized through the Library of Congress.

Possible Topics Based on WVRHC Collections

West Virginia Statehood

West Virginia’s founding fathers – Waitman T. Willey, Francis Pierpont, Arthur Boreman and others – stood against secession from the Union when Virginia voted to secede.  They organized conventions and ultimately created a new state. A&M 3; A&M 9; A&M 639.

John Brown Raid at Harpers Ferry

John Brown was a fierce abolitionist who planned and carried out an attack on the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in 1859.  The WVRHC holds original drawings, correspondence, journals and other materials belonging to David Hunter Strother who was present during Brown’s trial in Harper’s Ferry.  Strother met and sketched Brown and his conspirators and their eventual execution. A&M 2894; A&M 3194; and other associated collections.

Pearl S. Buck

Noted author and activist, Pearl S. Buck hailed from Pocahontas County West Virginia, although she primarily spent the first 40 years of her life in China with her missionary family.  She explored Chinese culture in her book the Good Earth for which she won the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes after encountering the hardships suffered by Chinese peasants.  She was an advocate for bi-racial and poor children and championed women’s rights and civil rights in an era when it was unpopular to do so.  A&M 4052; A&M 727.


Thomas Bennett, Vietnam War

Thomas Bennett was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, but still served as a medic during the conflict.  He was killed in action and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Bennett’s life story was told in the book, “Peaceful Patriot.” A&M 2714 .


Niagara Movement at Storer College, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Storer College was the first institution of higher education for African-Americans in West Virginia.  It began as a mission school for freed slaves after the Civil War and educated many students until it closed in 1955.  In 1906, the Niagara Movement, the precursor to the NAACP, held its first meeting on American soil on the campus.  Led by W. E. B Dubois and other civil rights activists at the time (including J.R. Clifford, West Virginia’s first African-American lawyer), the Niagara movement called for new opportunities for black Americans. A&M 2621; A&M


Kanawha Textbook Controversy

In 1974, parents in Kanawha County, West Virginia, protested textbooks selected for use in Kanawha County schools. A&M 2624; A&M 3523.


West Virginia Mine Wars

In the early 20th century, West Virginia miners fought for unionization and basic rights. The Matewan Massacre, the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike, and the Battle of Blair Mountain demonstrate what can happen when a group takes a stand.  The WVRHC holds numerous collections that record the history of this perilous time. A&M 3608; A&M 2036; A&M 3857; A&M 1921; A&M 1956; and many more manuscript collections as well as oral histories.


Other possible topics:

Lenna Lowe Yost:

Lenna Lowe Yost helped lead the suffrage movement in West Virginia, and became the first woman to preside over a Republican state party convention.  She chaired the Republican National Convention which nominated Warren G. Harding for president.  Yost took a stand for women’s rights and against unequal voting practices.


The Black Lung Movement

The Black Lung Movement took place in 1969.  Despite American dependence on Appalachian coalfields, many coal miners operated in dangerous conditions.  There were few laws that protected or compensated miners for injuries.  Even so, all miners were at risk for breathing in small particles of coal dust.  The Black Lung Movement took a stand against these dangerous conditions, and fought for justice for Appalachian coal miners. 


Judy Bonds, Environmental Activist

Judy Bonds was an environmental activist that fought against the mining practice of mountaintop removal.  Bonds took a stand for West Virginia’s environment.