Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
February 9, 2021
Contact: Jennifer Loux, DHR
—The marker recalls the work of Samuel F. Kelso, a Black educator and civil rights leader in the City of Lynchburg during the Reconstruction era—
—Marker’s text reproduced below—
A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated that highlights the life and career of Samuel F. Kelso, one of the first African American teachers in the City of Lynchburg, who advocated for free public education for all in Virginia after the Civil War.
The public dedication ceremony for the marker will be held Tuesday, February 15, starting at 5 p.m., at the marker’s location at 915 Court Street, inside the Lynchburg City Schools Administration Building.
Rev. James Coleman, chairman of the Lynchburg School Board, will deliver welcoming remarks at the ceremony. Event speakers include Dr. Crystal Edwards, superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools; City of Lynchburg Mayor MaryJane Dolan; Jane B. White, the marker’s proposer; and Ted Delaney, director of the Lynchburg Museum System and the city’s Chief Public History Officer. After the ceremony, Kelso’s great-great-niece, Kelly Saunders of New Jersey, will be accompanied by Ethel Reeves, Lynchburg City Schools’ director of equity and community relations, to lead the outdoor procession for the marker’s unveiling.
Samuel F. Kelso, born into slavery ca. 1825, taught at a freedmen’s school in the city on 12th Street and later became a trustee of the all-Black Polk Street School at 915 Polk Street. From 1867-68, Kelso served as a representative for Campbell County and Lynchburg at Virginia’s Constitutional Convention, where he introduced a resolution calling for the establishment of a free public school system for all students in the Commonwealth.
In 1869, Kelso attended the National Convention of the Colored Men of America in Washington, D.C., as a delegate challenging the exclusion of African Americans from civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. He later worked as a postal agent in Lynchburg.
The marker was approved for manufacture and installation in 2021 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers. The marker’s manufacturing costs were covered by its sponsors, Drs. Robert and Terry Brennan, Charles B. White, and the Lynchburg City Schools Education Foundation.
Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority.
[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]
Text of marker:
Samuel F. Kelso (ca. 1825 – 1880)
Samuel Kelso, born into slavery, became one of Lynchburg’s first African American teachers after the Civil War. He taught at a freedmen’s school on 12th St. and was later a trustee of the all-Black Polk Street School. Kelso was elected to represent Campbell County, including Lynchburg, at Virginia’s Constitutional Convention of 1867-68. There he voted with radical reformers and introduced a resolution calling for free public education open to all on an equal basis. In 1869 he was a delegate to the National Convention of the Colored Men of America, which protested the exclusion of Black Americans from civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. He was later a postal agent in Lynchburg.
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Originally posted: February 9, 2022
Updated: February 9, 2022