West Virginia

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West Virginia Black Population Story

Population:

1.8 Million – (94% White, 4% Black)
Beckley – 16,000+ (72% White, 21% Black)
Bluefield – 10,000+ (73% White, 27% Black)
Charleston – 50,000+ (78% White, 15% Black)
Huntington – 49,000+ (87% White, 9% Black)

County Poverty Rate:

Beckley/Raleigh County – 18% (Around Fayette Street)
Bluefield/Mercer County – 20% (NorthSide)
Charleston/Kanawha County – 14% (West Side and RuffnerAve)
Huntington/Cabell County – 20% (East of Hal Greer)

west virginia ghetto

Littlepage Terrace, Charleston.

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Average Income:

Beckley – $36,000
Bluefield – $32,000
Charleston Metro Area – $45,000
Huntington Metro Area – $43,000

Jobs:

Beckley – 2,500+ (2,000 have less than 20 employees)
Bluefield – 2,300+ (2,000 have less than 20 employees)
Charleston – 5,000+ (4,000 have less than 20 employees)
Huntington – 7,000+ (6,000 have less than 20 employees)

Black Owned Businesses:

Beckley – 5%
Bluefield – 9%
Charleston – 4%
Huntington – 5%

West Virginia Black Population Areas:

Beckley – The East Side around Fayette St known as East Beckley

Bluefield – South Side/Bland Street and North Side/Bluefield Ave

west virginia black population

Bluefield, West Virginia

Charleston – West Side, East Side (Ruffner Ave), Orchard Manor, and Littlepage Terrace and Washington Manor Projects, West Virginia’s first housing projects in the late 30s. Currently the city of Charleston is planning on rebuilding most of the black community on the city’s West Side.  Littlepage originally for white families and half of Washington Manor was for black families.

Huntington – Hal Greer Blvd, Northcott Court, and the Fairfield area.  Like Charleston, the black community and other areas of Fairfield, are being renovated, with the city demolishing most of the Northcott Court Projects.

west virginia ghetto

Northcott housing projects in Huntington, WV.

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West Virginia Black Population History:

Blacks have lived in the state of West Virginia since the 1800s, with most working in the coal mines, first as slaves and later as freed men.

The population continued to expand during the early part of the 1900s, even though some families left for jobs in the northern states, like Ohio and Michigan, during the 1940s and 1950s.

In the beginning (late 1800s – early 1900s) most resided in the southern part of the state, due to the opportunities in the coal mines.

To cut cost many coal companies hired and recruited African-Americans from nearby states, mainly Virginia. These companies would build and rent homes and would create small towns for black families and workers to live.

Today, the West Virginia black population is equal to 4%, with extremely small communities throughout the state in small cities and small towns.

west virginia black population

Beckley, West Virginia

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Watch TheRealStreetz of the West Virginia community.

 *Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

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  • Joy D M Foster

    I am originally from Charleston, W.Va and grew up there during the 50’s and 60’s. I was among the first to integrate the schools there and believe me, it was difficult as a little black girl. Most of the white teachers were mean to us or just ignored us all together. Of course, we were seated in the back of the class too. How well I remember the cold, hard feeling of racism there, from having to sit on the back of the bus to not being allowed to use the public library or try on hats in the department store. It was a very oppressive time and place. I left the state as soon as I was able and only returned once and that was to bring my mother north. It took me many years to overcome the racism I experienced in West Virginia. Even today, while I love the beauty of the State, I don’t have a high regard for the race relations that I am sure still exists. Yes, it is true that many of us are mixed; however, it doesn’t matter, because by and large, the racist attitude of white West Virginians remains the same. Perhaps that is one of the greatest reasons why the state only has a black population of about 3 – 4%…. We all left!

  • annebeth66

    Most Black people in West Virginia are Multi-Generationally Mixed (MGM) where there have been interracial marriages for many generations, since the 1800’s. Most Black families have White family members, so the issue of race ia not a huge one. Many wealthy White men had 2 families: the White wife & kids, which were his public family and the Black mistress & kids, which were his secret family, that everyone knows exists but is not discussed. West Virginia State University was built to educate those Black children of wealthy White men, with donated land and money, from those men and their White families.

    • JMonique Gambles

      Wow! Can you tell me more? I am doing a venogram of my family for a class and I cannot find any information on my family. My great grandfather was Sam Harper an black man who worked in the coal mines. I found some information on ancestry.com but not much.

      • Joy D M Foster

        I remember some Gambles in Charleston…

    • BigO

      Annebeth said, “Most Black families have White family members, so the issue of race is not a huge one. Many wealthy White men had 2 families: the White wife & kids, which were his public family and the Black mistress…” While it’s true West Va. had a lot of interracial people, I have serious doubt that it was most black families. The fact that some white men had black mistresses and children by them, and some black families were significantly permeated by white blood by no means cancel out racial issues. The fact that you imply that white men with black mistresses and children had to suppress discussion of this seems to contradict your assertion that race was not a huge problem. My family and I were partially raised in Southern West Va., and I know from experience that West Va. did have issues with race, not dissimilar from other southern state. There was racial segregation in schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, public accommodations etc. up until the late 1960s and early 1970s in some cases.

      Like my father, many blacks from the deep South, such as Alabama were recruited to work in the coal mines. They came to West Va. with intact families. My mother and father with one child at the time came to McDowell County in 1936. So to imply that West Va. was a state where most black families were mixed is not accurate. It’s true that some wealth white men took advantage of some black women. But most black women did not avail themselves to be exploited by rich white men. Additionally, you seem to infer that rich white men with black kids, out of the “goodness” of their hearts established West Virginia State to educate those children. While some may have donated money, this school was established by an act of the U.S. Congress. It was one of those original land grant black colleges. Many black people worked to develop and nurture this university over the years.

      If anyone is interested, I published a book about my family and me called, “Keeping Heart” published October, 2015, by Otis Trotter