Lunch With Books is the Ohio County Public Library’s flagship program for adult patrons. These lunchtime programs feature authors, poets, musicians, historians, and more every Tuesday at noon. Bring lunch to the Library Auditorium (or your computer) and feed your brain this winter!
In part two of “Historic West Virginia Anthems,” WVU English professor, Dr. Sarah Morris and “The Troubadour,” Bob Gaudio will explore the most famous of West Virginia anthems, John Denver’s iconic and internationally ubiquitous, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (1971). Morris’ book, “Transformation, Translation, and Complication: Take Me Home Country Roads,” explores the significance of the iconic song at West Virginia University, in West Virginia, and beyond. She contends that “Country Roads” emerged within a set of social and historical conditions that contributed to its success when it was written, so much that it is now ingrained into our collective culture, locally and globally, in a lasting way.
Standing on the corner of 16th and Market Street for only fourteen years, The Athenaeum’s short existence was a crucial witness to both the cultural and Civil War history of Wheeling of the era. Built in 1854 as a warehouse to serve the needs of the B&O railroad, the lower levels stored supplies for the Crescent Manufacturing Company, a maker of boiler, sheet, and railway iron, while the upper floor housed a theater. The Athenaeum, called “the best theater between the Allegheny Mountains and Chicago,” attracted many of the best performers of the antebellum period, including the famous Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, a brother of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, the U.S. government took over the building, detaining Confederate sympathizers and prisoners of war until they could be transferred to Camp Chase in Columbus. It became known locally as “Lincoln’s Bastille.” Local history researcher, Ed Phillips, has arguably done the most comprehensive research about the Athenaeum and will share interesting facts and story he’s found along the way including notable performances, guileful prisoner escapes, and a 1868 fire that was the young building’s demise.
Internationally known, in life and afterlife, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as an orator, abolitionist, editor, suffragist and American reformist, the history and placement of Frederick Douglass in the field of Appalachian Studies has not been considered and recognized until now.
The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Wheeling, West Virginia will focus on the relationship and associations Douglass had with several notable Wheeling citizens, including newspaper publisher, political insider and a leader of West Virginia’s statehood movement Archibald W. Campbell and Dr. Boswell Henson Stillyard, the first Black member of Wheeling’s City Council.
It takes a certain kind of person to take on the total restoration of an 1806 log house. Angela Feenerty and her husband Don did just that when they bought the ugliest house in Mt Pleasant, Ohio because they knew the secrets the house held. Underneath that ugly facade was the stuff legends are made of. Two hundred-plus-year-old oak, hickory, poplar, walnut and cheery logs set upon a fully-dug sandstone basement are now the jewel of Mt. Pleasant and open to the public by appointment only. Join us as the Feenertys tell the story of the 1806 log house and their journey in this labor of love.
As the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, Bessie Smith was the highest-paid Black performer of her day. She was known as the “Empress of the Blues” by virtue of her forceful vocal delivery and command of the genre. In addition, she was an all-around entertainer who danced, acted and performed comedy routines with her touring company. She was a staple of the “Chitlin’ Circuit” and throughout the Jim Crow South, and many of her tunes have been covered by various artists through the decades. Smith made an infamous visit to Wheeling in 1936.
She is portrayed by Doris Fields, aka Lady D, known as “West Virginia’s First Lady of Soul,” an R&B, soul, and blues musician and songwriter living in Beckley. Presented through the West Virginia Humanities Council’s History Alive, a program of first-person portrayals of historical figures by presenters who have conducted scholarly research on their character.
Miss Eileen Miller (1921-2010), an African American teacher from Wheeling, taught here before, during, and after school desegregation following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. Kent State University professor Dr. Martha Lash will share Miss Miller’s story which stands as an exemplar of the desegregation experience and as such deserves a place in the history as a talented educator who gracefully and powerfully managed her teaching career through many changes.
The third annual Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture at Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library will feature Dr. William H. Turner discussing his new books from WVU Press, “The Harlan Renaissance.”
“The Harlan Renaissance” by Dr. William H. Turner is an intimate remembrance of kinship and community in eastern Kentucky’s coal towns written by one of the luminaries of Appalachian studies, William Turner. Turner reconstructs Black life in the company towns in and around Harlan County during coal’s final postwar boom years, which built toward an enduring bust as the children of Black miners, like the author, left the region in search of better opportunities.