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West Virginia’s formation divided many groups within the new state. Grievances born of secession inflamed questions of taxation, political representation, and constitutional change, and greatly complicated black aspirations during the state’s formative years. Moreover, long-standing attitudes on race and slavery held great sway throughout Appalachia. Thus, the quest by the state’s black residents to achieve the full measure of freedom in the immediate post-Civil War years faced formidable challenges. To meet the mandates for statehood recognition established by President Lincoln, the state’s legislators were forced to rectify a particularly troublesome conundrum: how to grant citizenship to the state’s black residents as well as to its former Confederates. While both populations eventually garnered the rights of citizenship, the fact that a significant number of southern West Virginia’s black residents departed the region suggests that the political gains granted to them were not enough to stem the tide of out-migration during the state’s formative years, from 1863 to 1870.


This article, originally published in 2011, was reissued by the publisher at Copyright © 2011 West Virginia University Press. Republished under a CC-BY-NC-ND license in 2016.