"Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it." -Marian Anderson
Every story has its beginning. The story of Black history in Pennsylvania does not only begin when the first Africans set foot on the shores of the Delaware River. Each chapter in this complex story also has a start, from the singer, Marian Anderson, whose performace at the Lincoln Memorial opened the doors for other African American concert artists, to Nicholas Biddle, the first to shed blood in the American Civil War. History in Pennsylvania would not be the same without all these beginnings. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission endeavors to tell these stories as part of the Black History in Pennsylvania theme.
Nick Biddle is claimed to be the "first man to shed blood in the Civil War." Yet as escaped slave living in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Biddle was not a member of the military unit nor was his wound inflicted during battle.
Introducing Trailblazers - the PHMC has identified a group of African American men and women whose signification in history is statewide and often national, and an invidual with a strong connection to PHMC. They are called Trailblazers and have been introduced through an exhibit and a soon-to-be book project titled Trailblazers: Innovative African Americans in Pennsylvania History.
Cumberland Willis Posey Sr. was an engineer turned entrepreneur. His association with the Diamond Coke and Coal Company helped him become the wealthiest African American men in Pittsburgh.
Eric Ledell Smith was a historian for the PHMC from 1993 to 2008. His passion and exuberance for the accomplishments of all people, especially those that had little or no recognition in history or popular culture, brought him to complete both the Trailblazers exhibition in The State Museum and his authorship of twenty-three of the proposed fifty essays that will comprise the Trailblazers book.
Marian Anderson (1897–1993), a classical music and opera singer was a native of Philadelphia. In 1939, she was denied permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to perform at Constitution Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt helped arrange for her to perform in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson’s legacy stands equally on the quality of her voice and performances and on the dignity she projected while faced with the adversity and confrontation of prejudice
Slavery and Resistance Learn about early African American history in Pennsylvania from the beginings of the slave trade in the mid-1600s to the opposition and resistance that continued into the late 19th century.