ACKNOWLEDGING AND DENOUNCING, ON BEHALF OF THE CITY OF WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA, THE CITY’S ROLE IN FOSTERING THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY AND PERPETUATING RACIAL SEGREGATION, AND FURTHER, COMMITTING TO THE PURSUIT OF INITIATIVES THAT PROMOTE DIVERSITY AND END DISCRIMINATION, PREJUDICE, AND INJUSTICE, AND FURTHER RECOGNIZING JUNETEENTH INDEPENDENCE DAY IN THE CITY OF WHEELING
WHEREAS, hundreds of thousands of African people were forcibly brought to the territory that is now the United States between 1619 and 1808; and
WHEREAS, from the first European settlement in 1769 through 1865, the institution of slavery existed within the area presently constituting the City of Wheeling, West Virginia; and
WHEREAS, Africans forced into slavery suffered indignities that are unimaginable today, often being brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, stripped of their names and heritage, and torn apart from family members when sold at auctions under the cruelest of public spectacles; and
WHEREAS, for a number of years during this period, Wheeling was a major regional hub for the sale of slaves to nearby industry and to markets in the lower South, with weekly auctions of enslaved African people conducted in the Wheeling Market House, which sat upon the site now occupied by Market Plaza; and
WHEREAS, according to the 1860 Census of the United States, there were 100 men, women, and children living in Ohio County as the property of other local residents; and
WHEREAS, notwithstanding the outcome of the Civil War, the legal abolition of slavery in the newly formed State of West Virginia, and the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution more than 150 years ago, a system of racial segregation known as Jim Crow arose across many sections of our nation, including the State of West Virginia and the City of Wheeling; and
WHEREAS, these Jim Crow laws, which in some cases existed until the 1960s, were designed to separate African Americans from their fellow citizens, to suppress and intimidate their exercise of basic rights—including voting, and to frustrate their educational and economic opportunities for advancement; and
WHEREAS, while there is no metric by which to measure the cumulative effect of the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow laws on the lives of African Americans subjected to them, there can be no doubt that the consequences of these evils continue to manifest themselves today throughout American society; and
WHEREAS, it is time for the City of Wheeling to acknowledge and denounce the role that it played in fostering the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow and their attendant evils; and
WHEREAS, as the City of Wheeling commemorates this the 250th year since its founding by re-examining and retelling its history, it must neither purge nor minimize the role it played in the enslavement and segregation of African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them; and
WHEREAS, the City of Wheeling has in modern times enacted civil rights protections to outlaw discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability, familial status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and veteran status, we must acknowledge that these and other efforts have not fully eradicated the vestiges of slavery and racial segregation from our community and that efforts to strive for equality and equity and opportunity in all areas of life for African Americans in Wheeling must persist; and
WHEREAS, despite the stubborn legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, Wheeling’s African-American community has made—and continues to make—rich and meaningful contributions to Wheeling’s cultural and civic life; and
WHEREAS, Juneteenth Independence Day celebrations have been held in cities and states across the Nation to honor African-American freedom while encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures; and
WHEREAS, 45 States, including West Virginia, have designated Juneteenth Independence Day as a special day of observance in recognition of the emancipation of all slaves in the United States.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Mayor and Councilmembers of Wheeling, West Virginia, in City Council assembled, that:
ADOPTED this 18th day of June, 2019.
/s/Glenn F. Elliott Jr.
Mayor of Wheeling