Joel Beeson and The Kimball War Memorial by Chelsea Fuller

For more than a year, I have been working with West Virginia University professor Joel Beeson on the restoration of the Kimball War Memorial.

As the only standing memorial to African American soilders in WWI, this project is receiving regional and national attention. The memorial is located in Kimball W.Va., (McDowell County). This is a very remote and poverty stricken area, but it is rich in history.

In 1991, the memorial caught fire leaving only the outer walls. Beeson and his team of students, volunteers, historians, journalists and designers have made a great deal of progress in regards to re-collecting content for the museum portion of the memorial.

Kimball (and McDowell  County overall) has a strong and substantial black history. Aside from coal mining, they are known for being a groundbreaking place in regards to race relations, integration and equality.

I wrote the Kimball War Memorial Story detailing Beeson’s involvement and accomplishments regarding the memorial. It was his research on African American veterans that garnered him national recognition from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Writing this story was difficult because there was so much I wanted to include within my limited word count. Beeson and the others who are involved with this initiative are making history.

When I wrote the story, I had not yet been to Kimball or the memorial. I have since gone and spent a substantial amount of time there working and meeting people in the community.

It has been inspirational to see how much the people in Kimball love the memorial and their heritage as it pertains to race relations, mining and their veterans.

Since the memorial is not yet complete, there will be follow up stories and hopefully a multimedia piece created by yours truly.

This project is very near and dear to me. I have cultural and family ties to the memorial and the legacy of black miners and veterans in the state of West Virginia. At times it has been difficult for me to remain unbiased because I am so excited and passionate about the project.

Beeson and his team are working hard to re-establish the memorial as a historical landmark and as a center of pride for the state. It has been, and will continue to be something to keep a close eye on. I would not be surprised if lil’ ole Kimball, W.Va., becomes a nationally acclaimed location very soon.

To learn more about the memorial and the initiatives surrounding it, go to the Soldiers of the Coalfieds Facebook page.

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