In 1898, J.R. Clifford, West Virginia's first African-American lawyer, won a landmark civil rights and education case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals: Williams v. Board of Education. In the case, Clifford argued against the Tucker County Board of Education's decision to shorten the school year for The Coketon Colored School, a two-room schoolhouse from African-American children, from nine months to only five. Mrs. Carrie Williams, the school's teacher, approached Clifford and he encouraged her to continue teaching for the full nine months regardless of funding. He then filed a lawsuit against the school board for Williams' back pay. Clifford won the case at a jury trial, winning again before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The Court's decision bolstered equal education rights for African-American students statewide, fifty years before the landmark "Brown v. Board of Education" case. It was also one of the few civil rights victories in a southern state's high court before the turn of the 20th Century.
For more information about Carrie Williams and this landmark case, please visit the following websites:
Recently a mural has been made of Carrie Williams by local artist, Ali Printz. It is located on the back of the Buxton & Landstreet gallery, viewable from the Blackwater Loop Trail.