Little-known Civil Rights activist honored

Park pays tribute to Lafayette Hershaw through museum exhibit

Park pays tribute to Lafayette Hershaw through museum exhibit

January 31, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - People know about the NAACP, they've probably heard of its founder, W.E.B. DuBois, but "you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who's heard of Lafayette Hershaw," said Park Ranger Kim Biggs.

Hershaw was among the early civil rights activists willing to put his life and livelihood on the line for a single belief - that all people were created equal.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will pay tribute to Hershaw at a February exhibit at John Brown Museum, entitled "Pioneers for Freedom." The exhibit opens Sunday, Feb. 3, and will run the entire month of February. George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will speak at the event. Members of the Bradford Singers will perform.

Born in Clay County, North Carolina, in 1863, Hershaw earned a bachelor's degree from Atlanta University and a law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Hershaw died in 1945, Biggs said.


The Harpers Ferry exhibit will feature photos of Hershaw and artifacts from his life - a pennant from Atlanta University, a plaque from Howard and plaque from Phi Beta Sigma, the fraternity he joined while attending Howard.

Hershaw, who lived in Washington D.C., was a member of the planning committee for the Niagara Movement, an organization called together by DuBois in 1905 in order to counter failed Reconstruction efforts, the prevailing separate-but-equal approach to race relations and the pacifist ideology promoted by another black leader, Booker T. Washington. The Niagara Movement was named after the city in which it first met.The movement's Harpers Ferry ties were formed in 1906, when the Niagara Movement held its second meeting on the campus of Storer College. Park Ranger Guinevere Roper said John Brown's Fort and the all-black Storer College were what attracted the four members of the planning committee to Harpers Ferry.

Rutherford said Hershaw is among the early civil rights leaders whom local, modern-day civil rights leaders would like to introduce to the broader public.

The park has already hosted exhibits on two of the other committee members -Freeman H.M. Murray and J.R. Clifford, a Martinsburg attorney. DuBois will be highlighted in next year's exhibit.

"We're telling their stories," Biggs said. "It's been too long. They should get the recognition they deserve."

If you go ...

WHAT: "Lafayette M. Hershaw: Pioneer for Freedom," an exhibit on a cofounder of the Niagara Movement

WHEN: The exhibit opens 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3, and will run through February. The exhibit is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: John Brown Museum, second floor, off Shenandoah Street, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

COST: Park admission costs $6 and is good for admittance to any of the park's museums.

MORE: Call the Park Information Center, 304-535-6029.

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