What began as a meeting in the spring of 1990 by the Kelly Miller Alumni Association to discuss fund-raising ideas has evolved into what is known today as the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival. The first celebrations held by the African-American community in Clarksburg were commemorations of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. Appropriately called an "Emancipation Proclamation Celebration," the first official event was held on September 22, 1990 on E.B. Saunders Way (formerly known as Water Street) in Clarksburg, WV with city officials in attendance for the reading of the Proclamation.
The weekend celebration was so popular; its attendance exceeded the expectations of the association. Local social clubs and community organizations served as vendors in the early years of the event. In 1995, the celebration became too large for the Kelly Miller Alumni Association, thus the next step in the evolution of the festival began.
In 1995, after an organizational meeting was held to elect officers and appoint committees, the Black Heritage Festival picked up where the Emancipation Proclamation Celebration left off. The original board of directors included many hard-working and dedicated citizens from the local African-American community: Allen Lee, Gladys Griffin, Grace Nunn, Felicia Wilkinson, Barbara Smith, Marie McCoy, George and Eleanor Hilson, Victorian Louistall Monroe, Raymond Smith Sara Daugherty, Betty Wilson and Richard Albert. In 2001, another name change took place when the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival became incorporated. It gained 501 (C)(3) non-profit status in 2003.
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