A Civil Life
James Tolbert remembers when his neighbors along Academy Street owned their own homes, when they tended to vegetable gardens in their backyards and when the businesses and bars and pool halls that lined South West Street bustled with activity on Friday and Saturday nights.
It was a time when the old black neighborhoods of Charles Town — Big End, Dogtown, Potato Hill, Eagle Avenue and Boone in Ranson, near where American Public University’s solar array stands today — thrived and prospered, Tolbert said.
Tolbert has been long been a fixture in the civic life of Charles Town and in Jefferson County’s African-American community, and remains one of its leaders who served a vital role in the state’s civil rights movement.
And he’s witnessed many battles won — from improving access for blacks to better educational opportunities, lending, housing and jobs to the pressure the NAACP applied to the state’s school system to insist it abide by Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 desegregation ruling.
At 82, he continues to work diligently to improve the life of the county’s black community…