An Allegheny Triumph of Justice
Carrie Williams' Courageous Fight for Equal Rights in the Early Jim Crow Era
by Kathleen Jackson Costantini
Carrie Williams, the African American teacher at the Coketon Colored School in Tucker County, West Virginia, in the 1890s, bravely confronted an attempt to rob black children of their educational rights. In the burgeoning Jim Crow era that legally sanctioned black second-class citizenship, Carrie courageously challenged the all white Tucker County Board of Education when it shortened the school term for African American children. Her battlefield was a courtroom and her champion was John Robert Clifford, the first African American lawyer admitted to the bar in West Virginia.
Until recently, the national importance of this landmark litigation has remained obscured, largely due to the earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson. Carrie Williams’ victory provided a steady ray of hope from atop the Allegheny Mountains during the long fight for equal rights for African Americans. This is Carrie’s story, a true American heroic narrative.