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*As Fall semesters begin in America, we celebrate the founding or Storer College on this date in 1865.
Storer College was a historically black college (HBCU) located in Harpers Ferry in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Originally sent up as a normal school to train black teachers, it operated until 1955. The school was established after the American Civil War with the help of philanthropic Baptists from New England and, especially Maine. From August 15-19, 1906, the second meeting of the Niagara Movement was held at Storer Main Hall. The meeting was attended by J.R. Clifford, as well as other African American luminaries of the era, including W.E.B. Dubois.
In 1954, the NAACP achieved a victory with the US Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case. Immediately after the ruling, West Virginia withdrew its financial support from Storer College. The college had been accumulating financial burdens for a decade, and in June 1955, Storer College closed its doors forever. (West Virginia has continued to support Bluefield State College and West Virginia State University, larger historically black colleges that achieved accreditation and could offer more types of classes.)
In 1962, Congress appropriated funds for the National Park Service to acquire the surviving buildings on campus as part of what is now known as Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It had been established in 1944 as a National Monument, taking in much of the declining town. As part of this change, in 1964, the movable physical assets of the college were transferred to Alderson-Broaddus College. The college's endowment was transferred to Virginia Union University. Since 1964, they consider, and treat graduates of the college as alumni of VUU. VUU's L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Resource Center holds Storer College's former library collection and some of the college's records.
Other Storer College records are held at the library of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia University's West Virginia and Regional History Center, and at Howard University's Moorland–Spingarn Research Center. Each August, the alumni of Storer College gather in Harpers Ferry for an annual reunion. At last count fewer than 70 alumni survive.
Image: Jane Dunlap Collection, W. Virginia State Archives