After a long winter of brutal back-to-back snowstorms, and a cool spring, summer is finally here! And what better time to discover all that Pennsylvania has to offer travelers of all ages!
This edition of Pennsylvania Heritage is your "go to" guide for exploring the Keystone State's culture and heritage-especially our African American history. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) has adopted "Black History in Pennsylvania: Communities in Common" as its annual theme for 2010, and we've included several features to help you find your way to remarkable historic destinations.
Colleague Kenneth C. Wolensky discusses the historic buildings associated with African Americans that have been recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as National Historic Landmarks in "Remembering Place: Black National Historic Landmarks in Pennsylvania." Landmark status is enjoyed by very few buildings, structures, and sites throughout the nation, and the Commonwealth is fortunate to boast 167 designations. Of these, nine are related to Black history, including the home of abolitionist F. Julius LeMoyne (1798-1879) in Washington, Washington County, now administered by the Washington County Historical Society; Woodmont, the baronial home in Gladwyne, Montgomery County, of the charismatic Father Divine (1876-1965), who established the headquarters of his International Peace Mission Movement on suburban Philadelphia's Main Line in 1952; and Mother Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia, founded in 1787 by the Reverend Richard Allen (1760-1831), a former slave and founder of the Free African Society.
"Marking Pennsylvania's African American History" in this edition offers a glimpse at the dozens of state historical markers installed by PHMC throughout the Commonwealth to commemorate the African American experience. These markers document people, places, and events spanning three centuries of the Keystone State's history and culture. Markers range from Pittsburgh's Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson (1945-2005) to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, United States Colored Troops, in Mercersburg, Franklin County. Others honor abolitionist Daniel Kaufman (1818-1902) in Boiling Springs, Cumberland County, the 1851 Christiana Riot, Christiana, Lancaster County, Bowman Field, Williamsport, Lycoming County, Jonathan Jasper Wright (1840-1885) in Springville Township, Susquehanna County, and the first protest against slavery, in 1688, in Philadelphia's Germantown section. Plan your own version of a freedom trail by visiting the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program. Your passport to traveling through time is just a click away!
For individuals and organizations interested in documenting and interpreting their community's African American history, don't miss our overview on Black history in Pennsylvania, beginning on page 36. This feature summarizes an expansive history study that's accompanied by survey reports on eight communities throughout the Commonwealth. The historical narrative and the survey reports can be used as templates for communities that want to research and interpret their African American stories. The complete study, with surveys, is available online.
On behalf of the staff of Pennsylvania Heritage, I wish you an enjoyable - and rewarding - summer!
Michael J. O'Malley III