The Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) has been selected by the West Virginia Humanities Council to kick off the statewide tour of the updated award-winning traveling exhibit “Born of Rebellion: West Virginia Statehood.” The exhibit will be on display and open to the public and student groups in the first floor newly-renovated Exhibition Hall of the SALS Historic Oak Hill School in Oak Hill, with the official opening on Monday, Dec. 10. The exhibit will be open daily through Dec. 21. There is no charge to view the exhibit which consists of freestanding kiosks.

According to Mark Payne, coordinator of the traveling exhibition at the West Virginia Humanities Council, the tour has been arranged statewide over the upcoming year as part of the observance of the 150th birthday of West Virginia in 2013. The exhibit originally toured the state in 2006 and has been extensively re-designed by graphic design students at West Virginia University. It is organized into four informational areas:

I. Divergence — Sectional differences between western and eastern Virginia;

II. The Civil War — The war’s impact on the creation of the state;

III. The Birth of West Virginia — The process of becoming a state;

IV. Statehood — Our final boundary and the question of the constitutionality of the process.

The exhibit tells the unique story of the creation of the state of West Virginia. Basically, the Civil War was raging. Some felt that West Virginia had seceded from Virginia because Virginia had seceded from the United States. The Constitution allows the division of states only by consent, and under the circumstances, it was uncertain that Virginia had given its consent.

The constitutionality of the Mountain State was debated in President Lincoln’s cabinet and the Congress. It was questioned whether the new state would be dissolved once Virginia was restored to the Union. Ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court decided the final state boundary. From this turbulent beginning, the Mountain State emerged on June 20, 1863, as the 35th state in the Union.

The issues involved in West Virginia’s birth engages people far beyond our borders, providing material for a C-SPAN debate and a lengthy article in the California Law Review.

John David, SALS director, said it is an honor that the West Virginia Humanities Council decided to open the state tour at the Historic Oak Hill School. He said SALS has been working diligently to turn the facility into a premiere learning, conference and cultural center, with wellness activities, upcoming concerts at the Performing Arts Auditorium and the opening of the Historic School Café with catered dining, scheduled in the near future.

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