Communities in Common: Black History in Pennsylvania study

Since receiving a Preserve America Grant in 2006, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Harrisburg, and the African American Museum of Philadelphia embarked on an exciting journey to chronicle the historic context of African Americans in Pennsylvania and to conduct a survey of the history, changing demographics, and built environment of nine geographically and economically distinct African American communities in the Commonwealth.

The main objective of this history study is to serve as a social, cultural, economic, political, and religious history, as it examines the people, events, and places that make Pennsylvania’s African American historical legacy—spanning the seventeenth century to the twentieth—rich and multi-layered. It is also intended as a guide for scholars and laypeople alike wishing to nominate buildings, sites, structures, and objects of African American significance to the National Register of Historic Places and to PHMC’s State Historical Marker Program by providing the necessary historical context to aid them.

The history study employed disparate secondary sources on the African American experience in Pennsylvania, as well as a great number of primary source materials including (but not limited) to: tax, land and Census records, newspaper articles, amateur, local, and county histories, personal journals, diaries, ledgers, and records (gathered from historical societies, libraries, museums and private collections, electronic databases).

Exhaustive research, intensive analysis, and painstakingly careful interpretation have produced an intricate, multifaceted narrative history of Pennsylvania’s African Americans that is at once both historiographic and forward-looking. In addition, the study is augmented by the voices and recollections of individuals who lived and witnessed this history.

The study is invaluable as a template for individuals and organizations throughout Pennsylvania who wish to study and interpret the African American cultural and historical legacies of their region, community, or neighborhood.

Please select from the a chapter below, or if there is no link available, check back at a later time.

Chapter 1: Slavery and Resistance (PDF)
Chapter 2: Religion (PDF)
Chapter 3: Labor and Occupation up to 1860 (PDF)
Chapter 4: Labor and Occupation: 1860 to 1965 (PDF)
Chapter 5: Education (PDF)
Chapter 6: Social Affiliations (PDF)
Chapter 7: Sports and Recreation (PDF)
Chapter 8: Quest for Civil Rights (PDF)
Bibliography (PDF)

The activity that is the subject of this history study and Web site has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior.

This program receives Federal financial assistance for identification and protection of historic properties. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability or age in its federally assisted programs. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office of Equal Opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240.

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