UPDATE: New attention on Sumner School fundraiser

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 8:32 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va (WTAP) - There’s new attention on a fundraiser set to revitalize Sumner School in Parkersburg.

Parkersburg activist Peshka Calloway has been raising money on GoFundMe for the Sumnerite Association to use for repairs on the Sumner School.

Recently a GoFundMe employee took notice of Calloway’s fundraiser, which features written history of the school, and recommended it for their “GoFundme Gives Back” program, resulting in the largest donation on the page yet, $400.

Calloway sent a video to GoFundMe thanking them for the recognition.

"We're so gratious, the money that you gave us (GoFundMe's Giving Back Program) means the world to us and thank you for thinking of us," Calloway said in the video.

Calloway says GoFundMe will be keeping an eye on her fundraiser going forward.

She’s excited, as she has been working to draw more attention to the project.


A local activist has started to raise money to renovate what is believed to be the first school for black children below the Mason-Dixon Line.

The historic Sumner School located on Avery Street in Parkersburg was formed before West Virginia was even a state, and it is in need of repair. Peshka Calloway, a local activist, is raising money for the Sumnerite Association to put toward renovations.

While Calloway is not formally associated with the Sumnerite Association, she has some connections to it. She has been in touch with members about what the building needs. Among other repairs, she says it needs a new roof.

She doubts she will be able to cover the cost of every repair needed, as she says it needs an estimated $2.5 to $3 million in renovations. But, she’s going to try and put a dent in the cost.

“I created the GoFundMe to preserve this building and this space and, working with the family, to get it back up and running and become this center for education,” said Calloway.

She expects the project will need grant funding, but she will raise as much as she can. In the last thirty days, Calloway has raised over $1,000. About three quarters of that came from a recently started GoFundMe page.

Calloway thinks her GoFundMe will continue to grow well past its current goal of $50,000 once more people find out about it. To draw attention to it, she’s recording the school’s history on the GoFundMe page. She even stayed up until 3 a.m. one night writing about it.

“What I’m doing differently compared to other GoFundMe fundraisers is I’m dropping the history of Sumner in the GoFundMe, because I want people who are still unable to give to take away knowledge, to take away information,” said Calloway.

Calloway says she will try to add new historical information to the GoFundMe every day.

She hopes the fundraiser will draw national attention.

“This isn’t just Parkersburg’s history. This is national history. Sumner School was established, was created before West Virginia was even a state,” said Calloway. “Not only was it the first elementary school, it then became the first colored high school in the state. And the first colored school south of the Mason Dixon Line.”

“People don’t understand the blow back, the issues that people faced back then. Especially black folks establishing a school when you can be lynched for educating people. We know prior to the Civil War and during the Civil War people were lynched, black folk were lynched if they were caught teaching other black folk how to read.”

You can find the fundraiser by clicking here.

Copyright 2020 WTAP. All rights reserved.

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