Samuel Black

WVNCC Celebrates Black History Month With Photographic History Presentation

In celebration of Black History Month, West Virginia Northern Community College will host Samuel W. Black Feb. 20-22, as he presents “Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole – A Photographic History of African Americans in Cleveland, Ohio.”

Black’s presentation will discuss the life, times and work of photographer Allen E. Cole, a Kearneysville, W.Va., native who migrated to Ohio in 1905 and became one of the 20th century’s great black photographers. The presentation will take place at noon on Feb. 20 at the college’s Weirton Campus, Feb. 21 at the Wheeling Campus and Feb. 22 at the New Martinsville Campus. Each event, which is open to the public, is free and includes lunch.

Cole’s photography chronicled the growth of black Cleveland from 1917 to the 1960s. It captured the increasing population of blacks during the Great Migration. Published in cooperation with Kent State University Press, it is a study of Cole’s life and work in the context of his community and the national black experience. The photographs provide compelling views of the religious, social, and civic organizations and the families and public figures in Cleveland’s African-American community from the 1920s to the 1960s.  

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An important aspect of Cole’s professional photography work is rooted in West Virginia. His family life in Kearneysville, education at Storer College in Harper’s Ferry and determination to live beyond the constraints of Jim Crow discrimination helped to shape his personal and professional ethic. Cole is one example of a West Virginian who took what he was given and made history out of it.  

Cole was a mid-20th century photographer and businessman who was impacted by Virginian Booker T. Washington’s self-determination ideology. Cole had historic instances all around him. A 1905 graduate of Storer College in Harper’s Ferry, he worked with John O. Holly of the Future Outlook League and was the photographer of Judge Perry B. Jackson, Ohio’s first African American judge.

Black is the curator of African American Collections at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh and a former curator of the Allen E. Cole Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society. Black is also the editor of the anthology “Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era” and serves as vice president of the Association of African American Museums.

Anyone interested in attending must RSVP to Sara Wood at 304-214-8917 or by emailing her at