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‘Gates to Freedom” to be presented at WVU Potomac State College

Jane Gates

The Social Justice Council at West Virginia University Potomac State College will host a presentation about Jane Gates, entrepreneur, homeowner, single parent, and emancipated slave, on Friday, Feb. 21 in the Davis Conference Center at 12:30 p.m. 

Gates was born into slavery around 1819 and was emancipated by the Civil War.  In 1871, Gates purchased a home on a large lot on Greene St. in Cumberland, Md., where she raised five children and several of her grandchildren, until her death in 1888.  The 1870 U.S. Census listed Gates’ occupations as a nurse and laundress.

Her youngest child, Edward Gates, is the great-grandfather of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. PhD, a former resident of Piedmont, W.Va. who attended Potomac State College as a freshman.  Additionally, Gates serves as host of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.” 

Jane Gates’ house still belongs to her family and they wish to honor her life within the community she called home.  Thanks to The African American Heritage Preservation Program grant, work is underway to restore the house for use as a museum and learning center.

Jane Gates house

This presentation will highlight the life of Jane Gates and the future plans of the house and property, as well as the results of an archaeological investigation last September.

John Gates, a direct descendant of Jane, and his wife Sukh, will begin the presentation, followed by Suzanne Trussell, an archaeologist and historian with several years of experience in heritage tourism who has also served as an exhibit curator, museum manager and historical collections manager.

For more information, contact Catie Bridges at 304-788-7136 or