CHARLESTON -- At a press conference June 14 in the lower Rotunda in the WV State Capitol, re-enactors portraying the Civil War-era West Virginians Granville Hall and J.R. Clifford helped announce a fall 2011 Charleston performance of the West Virginia statehood "Living History" dramatic program "A New Home for Liberty."
The free, family-friendly "edutainment" program, presented by the J.R. Clifford Project of Friends of Blackwater, will feature a community cast and celebrates the Sesquicentennial (150th Birthday) of the creation of West Virginia. The performance's tentative date and location are Oct. 18 at the Charleston Civic Center's Little Theater.
"A New Home for Liberty" uses drama, music, readings, and scholarly commentary to tell the story of the creation of West Virginia, through the lives of two historic characters: Granville Hall (1837-1933) and J.R. Clifford (1848-1933).
"A New Home for Liberty" premiered on April 6 before a standing-room-only audience of 400 people at the West Virginia University Erickson Alumni Center in a performance co-sponsored with the WVU College of Law.
The Charleston performance of "A New Home for Liberty" will be sponsored in part by grants from AT&T, the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Appalachian Community Fund, Chesapeake Energy and local law firms. The J.R. Clifford Project Co-Directors are Charleston attorneys Thomas Rodd and Katherine Dooley. Senior Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher is the Project's Honorary Chair.
The Fall 2011 Charleston presentation will cast prominent community members as historical characters -- as well as young people from local churches and community groups. The Charleston program will also feature a "pre-show lecture" by local and visiting scholars in a "fireside chat" format. Program sponsors expect that the lively period-musical and gospel choir components in the program will help attract a large audience. A Host Committee and Program Committee are in formation.
According to program sponsors, Granville Hall, one of "A New Home for Liberty's" lead characters, was born near Shinnston to parents who were charged with distributing anti-slavery documents before the Civil War. Hall was active in the new-state movement of 1861, became a successful businessman, and wrote extensively about his role in forming the new State.
The other lead character, J.R. Clifford, was born near Moorefield, the child of free black farmers. Clifford fought for the Union in the United States Colored Troops, and went on to a career in education, publishing, and the law in Martinsburg.
Program sponsors say that both Hall and Clifford took pride that West Virginia banned slavery in its first Constitution – and that African Americans in the new "Mountain State" could exercise political power. Other historic characters in the program will include President Abraham Lincoln; and leading state-makers Archibald Campbell, Gordon Battelle, West Virginia Gov. William Stevenson, Kanawha County Legislator George Summers, Francis Pierpont, Julia Pierpont and West Virginia historian Carter G. Woodson, known as "the father of Black History."