BUCKHANNON — First Lady Melania Trump revealed her new “Building the Movement” art exhibit Monday, August 24 on the White House’s North Lawn and Buckhannon-Upshur High School student Emily Adams was present to see her artwork showcased.
The project honored the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the women’s suffrage movement in the United States with artwork from students across the country, including Buckhannon’s own Emily Adams. Adams’ piece depicted Coralie Franklin Cook, who was born into slavery and became the first descendant of a Monticello slave known to have graduated college. Cook graduated from Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and from that point on, she was noted as a leader and powerful speaker in the Mountain State, as well as Washington, D.C.
Adams explained, “One minute I’m just an art loving girl from small town Buckhannon, WV and the next minute I’m at the White House, proudly representing my state!” Although an art aficionado, Adams is also a lover of history. The hotel she and her family stayed in while visiting D.C. previously held the headquarters for the U.S. Postal Service, which Adams found fascinating.
The morning of the exhibition, Adams was dropped off by her family at the Southwest Gate of the White House, where each student was tested for coronavirus. Shortly after, they were directed into another area that Adams described as “something out of the Abe Lincoln era.” At this time, the students had the opportunity to share a meet and greet. While taking a tour of the White House, and after getting to see the President’s library with over 2,000 books solely for him, Adams got to sit at the grand piano in front of the main entrance.
Taking in all of the beautiful architecture and history, Adams said she couldn’t help but get anxious wondering if she was going to get to meet the First Lady. Adams explained the thoughts filling her head, “Will I get to meet the first lady…the one who has broken so many barriers…the immigrant, the mother that does not have a nanny… the business woman… the woman who can speak at least five languages?” Adams was in awe when Melania Trump finally appeared and delivered her speech. Shortly after, she came to each student’s station and visited with them individually to discuss their artwork. The First Lady was reportedly impressed with Adam’s work and encouraged her to continue drawing.
In a letter she later received addressed “Dear Emily,” Mrs. Trump stated, “As we celebrate this important milestone, I encourage you to continue learning about the impact the women’s suffrage movement had on our Nation’s history and look for ways to make your voice heard. Always remember that you have the power to make a difference in our society. Together, we can create a brighter future for all Americans.”
Among the other people Adams encountered were U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Second Lady of the United States, Karen Pence and Colleen Shogan-Raffety, who is the Vice President at the White House Historical Association and the daughter-in-law of Upshur County’s JC and Cindy Raffety.
The exhibit also featured historic photographs placed throughout, bringing life to the history of the women’s suffrage movement through the eyes of America’s children.
The First Lady added in a press release, “The ratification of the 19th Amendment and the women’s right to vote was a turning point in the history of women’s rights in the United States and stood as an example to the world… Since taking office, my husband and this Administration have taken historic measures to empower and support women in the United States and around the world.”