Lincoln University

Pennsylvania has the distinction of hosting the nation’s first two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Cheyney and Lincoln universities. Both schools were established to provide people of African descent with higher education opportunities that were profoundly lacking in the 19th century. Cheyney, founded in 1837, initially provided training in trades and agriculture and the...
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A Portrait of Black Philadelphia in the 1930s

In 1938 William Strong and a companion named Egan spent months crisscrossing Philadelphia. Their mission was to photograph the city’s Black community, its culture, and its history. In February, they snapped students socializing in the Berean Manual Training and Industrial School’s cafeteria and energetic children playing instruments at the Wharton Centre settlement house. That April, they...
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To Risk It All by Michael N. McConnell

To Risk It All General Forbes, the Capture of Fort Duquesne, and the Course of Empire in the Ohio Country by Michael N. McConnell University of Pittsburgh Press, 399 pp., hardcover $35 Michael McConnell restores urgency to the Seven Years’ War in To Risk It All. Eleven chapters explore, as the author notes, “How he [Brig. Gen. John Forbes] succeeded, and what his success meant to the subsequent...
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Trailheads

After a long year of closure due to COVID-19, Pennsylvania Trails of History sites reopened to the public late this spring. Most sites operated on reduced schedules to allow staff extra time for cleaning and to help everyone get back into a routine. Visitors seemed eager to return, and they adapted to online reservations, timed tickets and mask requirements. By late June, the Wolf administration...
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Dox Thrash and the “Poetry of the Artist’s Own People”

A son of sharecroppers, Dox Thrash was born in 1893 and raised in a cabin outside the town of Griffin in rural Georgia. The second of four children, he was raised primarily, perhaps solely, by his beloved mother, Ophelia. Throughout her adult life, Ophelia Thrash worked six to seven days a week as a housekeeper and cook for a white family named Taylor while providing materially and spiritually...
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Editor’s Letter

The cover of this edition features a poignant watercolor portrait, Woman in Blue, Waiting, by a Philadelphia artist whose work has been regrettably overlooked in the past but is now being rediscovered as new studies and exhibitions, as well as a preservation effort to save his home, have emerged in recent years. Printmaker and painter Dox Thrash sought to document the African American experience...
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A Gathering at the Crossroads: Memorializing African American Trailblazers and a Lost Neighborhood in Harrisburg

Twice during the second half of 2020, people gathered at Harrisburg’s Capitol Park to witness the dedication of A Gathering at the Crossroads, a monument commemorating four statewide civil rights crusaders and the African American residents of a now-vanished neighborhood in Harrisburg who contributed to the commonwealth’s entrenched legacy of freedom. The monument, sculpted by Becky Ault,...
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Piecing Together Pandenarium: Archaeology at the Site of a Free Black Community in Western Pennsylvania

In 1854 newly freed African American men, women and children hailing from a plantation in Ablemarle County, Virginia, arrived at a dusty country crossroads in northwestern Pennsylvania’s Mercer County. Estimates vary, but approximately 63 free people settled together on 100 acres of their own land. Local abolitionists prepared for the arrival by building houses along the hill, digging wells, and...
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Crawford Grill No. 2

The Sochatoff Building sits at the corner of Wylie Avenue and Elmore Street in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood. This three-story building was constructed in 1917 and would later hold the nationally renowned jazz club Crawford Grill No. 2 between 1945 and 2003. The club, which occupied the entire first floor of the building, was established by African American businessman William Augustus...
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The Manumission of Samuel Stephens

In 1783 Stuart George Dallas and his wife Elizabeth, formerly of the island of Jamaica, filed a manumission contract in Philadelphia for enslaved 12-year-old Samuel “Sammy” Stephens. George Bryan of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered a writ of habeas corpus for Samuel Stephens to be brought before him on July 1, 1786. The manumission contract, pictured here, is preserved in the Pennsylvania...
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