Skip to main content

Ancella Bickley, Historian, Research Papers regarding African-Americans

Collection Number: A&M 4208

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the research, public service, and life of Ancella Bickley, writer, educator, speaker, and historian. Includes writings, research materials, and more, focusing on the history of African Americans in West Virginia and the black experience in West Virginia. Collected research materials are predominantly facsimiles. Printed formats include correspondence, clippings, interview transcripts, typescript writings, publications, pamphlets, ephemera, speeches, articles, military records, and more. Other formats include photographs, slides, and audiocassettes.

Subjects include Dr. Bickley's writings, which include plays, speeches, and short stories as well as her historical books, articles and other publications; collected materials from Dr. Bickley's historical research on the history of African Americans in West Virginia; and personal papers. Her research materials include papers grouped sometimes by county, sometimes by individual, sometimes by subject. Subjects of her research include slavery, education, churches, biography and genealogy, literature, and more. Specific subjects include the Underground Railroad, James McHenry Jones, genealogy, Carter G. Woodson, Mollie Gabe, West Virginia Colored Institute/West Virginia State College, John W. Davis, black high schools, school integration, and more. Counties and their cities with specific focus include Cabell, Kanawha, and Jefferson. Some documents treating slavery and the Underground Railroad include Ohio from which Cabell County blacks, including Bickley’s ancestors, migrated.

Colleagues with whom she corresponded include Judith Stitzel, Nelson Barnett, Maureen Crockett (with whom she co-wrote at least one play), and many more. Of significance is correspondence between Carter G. Woodson and his sister, Bessie Woodson Yancey; and letters and a signed photo from Alex Haley.

Writings, research background, and drafts of Dr. Bickley's works found within the collection include: Memphis Tennessee Garrison: The Remarkable Story of a Black Appalachian Woman, "Midwifery in West Virginia" (1990), Honoring our Past: Proceedings of the First Two Conferences on West Virginia's Black History, History of the West Virginia State Teachers' Association (1979), In Spite of Obstacles: a History of the West Virginia Schools for the Colored Deaf and Blind, 1926-1955, Our Mount Vernons: historic register listings of sites significant to the Black history of West Virginia, a short story collection "Turn Left at the Desert," ... to be black in Fayette, and plays: Two Saint Say, Mother Love, Tangled Threads (with Maureen Crockett), Wade in the Water, and seven Goldenseal articles. Grant applications and other documents pertaining to her work with the Humanities Council of West Virginia are included in the collection. Other documents describe her work with the Kanawha County Board of Education, EcoTheater, Berea College’s Black Mountain Youth Leadership program, and various professional organizations. Personal papers include material about her husband Nelson R. Bickley and his military career, diplomas, transcripts, photographs of a party she held, and more.

Addendum of 2017/02/09 (boxes 11 and 12) includes papers of Dr. Ancella R. Bickley, with a few papers of her daughter Ancella Livers. Formats include interview transcripts, correspondence, clippings, typescript writings, publications, cassettes, and more. Most of these materials are transcripts of oral histories pertaining to a collaborative project undertaken by Dr. Bickley and Dr. Rita Wicks-Nelson about black teachers and their memories of school integration in West Virginia in affiliation with the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Gender in Appalachia at Marshall University.

Abbreviations used in the Contents List:
AB - Ancella Bickley
WVSC - West Virginia State College
NB - Nelson Bickley
MTG - Memphis Tennessee Garrison
JMJ - J. McHenry Jones
NEA - National Education Association
NCTE - National Council of Teachers of English
Mo So Lit Club - Matrons and Maids Social and Literary Club, McDowell County, WV
UGRR - Underground Railroad
MU - Marshall University
WVU - West Virginia University
CGW - Carter G. Woodson
RW-N - Rita Wicks-Nelson


  • Creation: 1775-2018 (Includes facsimiles)
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-2011


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Requires signed form for box 1, folders 8, 16, and 17, since special access restriction applies due to PII.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical Note

Dr. Ancella Radford Bickley, author, historian, and educator, grew up in segregated Huntington, West Virginia, where she was born in 1930. She graduated from Douglass High School in 1947 and went on to attend West Virginia State College, graduating magna cum laude in 1950 with a degree in English. She was the first full time black student at Marshall University and received her master’s degree in English in 1954. She received her Ed.D. in English from West Virginia University in 1974. Dr. Bickley was a teacher at all educational levels and was Vice-President for Academic Affairs at West Virginia State College where she retired in 1986. She continued to research, write, and speak from her retirement home in Florida where she lived with her husband Nelson. Some of her accolades include the Mountain State Bar Association's Distinguished Citizen Award, 1978; the National Education Association’s The Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award, 1980; West Virginia Woman of the Year, 1984; the West Virginia State College Alumnus of the Year, 1988; and was a Rockefeller Foundation Scholar at Marshall University in 1999.

Dr. Bickley was a prolific speaker and in addtion to the speeches, she authored many stories, plays, and articles. In 1997, she published Our Mount Vernons to identify sites significant to West Virginia black history.

With Lynda Ann Ewen, she co-edited Memphis Tennessee Garrison: The Remarkable Story of a Black Appalachian Woman, published by Ohio University Press. She has written stories and articles for publications including West Virginia cultural magazine, Goldenseal. She wrote a history of the West Virginia Schools for the Colored Deaf and Blind.


13.1 Linear Feet (13 ft. 1/2 in. (9 record cartons, 15 in. each); (3 document cases, 5 in. each); (2 document cases, 2 1/2 in. each); (1 flat storage box, 1 1/2 in.))

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Related Materials

Bickley, Ancella Collection. Materials relating to African-American history including annual West Virginia Conferences on Black History, 1908-1996. 3 boxes. Ms2003-182, at the West Virginia State Archives.

Marshall University Oral History Collection, Accession Number 1973/01.0064, also includes the oral history transcripts in this collection's addendum of 2017/02/09.

Separated Materials

Items not held in the WVRHC collection which were sent to the Rare Books Curator:
1969/70 edition of "The Black Student at WVU"
Bulletin of West Virginia State College, Series 21, no. 1, June 1933. "Why Choose West Virginia State College"
Bickley, A. R., Carter, G. W. M. F. I., & Marshall University, H. W. V. D. A. (1997). Our Mount Vernons: historic register listings of sites significant to the Black history of West Virginia. [Huntington, WV] : [Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation of Huntington and the Drinko Academy at Marshall University].
Booklet, "History of African-American Miners in Appalachian Coal Fields: Black History Month, February, 2000"

Ancella Bickley, Historian, Research Papers regarding African-Americans
Jane LaBarbara
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US