Black Harrisburg’s Resistance to Slavery

In April 18, 1825, a fugitive slave from Mary­land was found by his owner in Harrisburg and was imprisoned in the Dauphin County jail. A hearing on the matter was held in the courthouse that day, with Judge Bucher presiding. It took most of the day to con­vince the Judge that the slave should be returned to the custody of the slaveholder, during which time, according to the Pennsylvania...
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The Emergence of Black Religion in Pennsylvania, 1776-1850

The emergence of Black churches at the beginning of the nineteenth century was crucial to the survival of Black people in Pennsylvania and in the North because it provided two key resources. First, it provided a sense of meaning and destiny grounded in hope. Secondly, the Black church provided the institutional base for the economic, social, and political struggle of Blacks, including the...
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Courageous Cumberland County

Anxious to persuade a Scottish cleric, the Rev. Charles Nisbet, to become the first president of Dickinson Col­lege, its founding trustee Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote the Presbyterian worthy in 1784, describing central Cumberland County. The town of Carlisle lies 120 miles to the westward of Philadel­phia and about 18 miles from the river Susquehannah. It consists of about 300 houses, most of which...
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A Capital Idea! A Brief and Bumpy History of Pennsylvania’s Capitols

A mere one hundred or so miles separate Philadelphia’s Chestnut and Harrisburg’s Third streets. But the path­ – metaphorically, at least­ – between the Keystone State’s first and final capitol build­ings seems far longer and rockier than geography suggests. From the Commonwealth’s earliest days, when the government met in Philadelphia’s elegant State...
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Lost and Found

Lost Strained by the weight of nearly a half-million pounds of snow during what has become known as the Winter of 1994, the century-old Mount Gretna Playhouse collapsed in February. The historic open-air theater was built in the Lebanon County summer resort in 1892 by carpenter John Cilley, a self­-taught engineer. Measuring one hundred feet in diameter and shaped like an umbrella, the...
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Loose the Woman and Let Her Go! Pennsylvania’s African American Women Preachers

Because of the highly developed religious systems of Africa, slaves transported. to the New World continued to practice their religious rites and traditions, even though they were in a strange land. The similarity of the Biblical experiences, such as prophets, visitations, and miracles, to African religious beliefs was of great interest to the slaves as they heard plantation owners talk about...
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Chester Heights Camp Meeting

By the outbreak of the Civil War, Methodism had become the largest Christian denomination in the country, tracing its dramatic rise from a reform movement in the Episcopal Church to successful camp meetings. Methodist circuit riders visited local communities and conducted large public religious meetings, some of which lasted many days, with a succession of commanding speakers, spirited singing,...
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Violence and Vigilantes: The KKK in Pennsylvania

It was a warm, muggy day in early August 1921 in Philadelphia when F. W. Atkins of Jacksonville, Florida, and W. J. Bellamy of Cincinnati, Ohio, rented an office in the Bellevue Court Building to quietly recruit members for “a great and patriotic crusade to save the nation.” Their goal was to organize a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Posing as a prospective KKK initiate, a...
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