WLU alumna presents Black History Month program


WLU Media Relations

Martha Lash, Ph.D.

West Liberty alumna Martha Lash, Ph.D. is part of the Ohio County Public Library’s “Lunch with Books” program to celebrate Black History Month.

Lash, a professor and the interim director of the School of Teaching at Kent State University, came to the library on Wednesday, Feb. 8. The program took place both virtually and in-person where Lash discussed the life of Eileen Miller, an African American teacher who taught at Warwood and Lincoln School. Miller had the experience of teaching both before and after the Brown v. Board of Education case, which ended racial segregation in schools.

Lash’s inspiration to discuss Miller’s life came from a discussion she had in her classroom. In an interview with West Liberty’s News and Media Relations director, Lash said, “A master’s degree student posed the following question to our professional development in teaching class: ‘Did anyone in class have an African American teacher during any of their PK-12 years?’ Only two raised their hands: the African American female student posing the question, and I, a middle-aged, female, Caucasian professor. The class discussion revolved around the topic of the relatively few teachers of color who grace our public schools. It also left me with lingering questions of how and why an educated and talented African American teacher had taught me in eighth grade in my predominantly European American community on the northern edge of Appalachia during my school years in the 1960s and 1970s.”

Lash will be accompanied by Monica Ratcliffe Cooper of Pittsburgh (one of Lash’s previous students) to explain the significance of Miss Miller’s story, as it provides an example of the local desegregation experience. Both Lash and Cooper believe Miss Miller deserves her place in Black History Month for her teaching career that spanned across many important political changes. Lash and Cooper had the opportunity to interview Miss Miller in 2008, just two years before she passed away.

Lash is from Wheeling, W. Va., and received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from West Liberty University. She also received master’s of education in curriculum studies and early childhood emphasis from Indiana University-Bloomington in 1996. She received her Ph.D. in those subjects in 2004, also in Indiana. Starting in 2003, Lash began working at Kent State University where she remains to this day.

Other programs from Ohio County Library include a presentation from Rev. Stephen Wright, the first African American graduate of Linsly. He will be accompanied by four other African American Linsly graduates on Feb. 15th.

The library’s program will conclude on Feb. 22 with the presentation of the Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture Series with Dr. William H. Turner, author of “The Harlan Renaissance: A Memoir of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns.”

If you are interested in attending “Lunch with Books,” the Ohio County Public Library allows adult patrons to bring a bag lunch but complimentary beverages are provided. Attendees can choose between the live streamed broadcast or an in-person presentation. For more information about Ohio County Public Library’s Black History Month program, or to watch previous “Lunch with Books” presentations, visit https://www.facebook.com/ohiocountylibrary.