Editor's Letter is an introduction to the contents and themes of each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage by the editor.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania has recently installed in its first-floor gallery a long-term exhibition, A Place for All, focusing on three episodes of the Civil Rights Movement in the commonwealth — struggles for integration at Highland Park swimming pool in Pittsburgh, Girard College preparatory school in Philadelphia, and the suburban community of Levittown in Bucks County. The stories were originally curated as a series of displays in the early 2000s by the late PHMC historian Eric Ledell Smith and now have been brought together with expanded content in A Place for All by a team that included Smith’s colleague Curtis Miner, senior curator of history at The State Museum. In this edition, Miner contributes a feature article that serves as a companion to the new exhibition, weaving together first-person accounts, documents and photographs to highlight the resilience, bravery and strength of those who fought for African American civil liberties in Pennsylvania.

The plays of August Wilson also reflect themes of race and dreams deferred. Born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Wilson is today considered one of the most significant American literary figures of the past century. His ambitious American Century Cycle of 10 plays, encapsulating the African American experience in each of the decades of the 20th century, has been hailed as one of American theatre’s greatest achievements. In “A Full-Circle Moment,” Sandra G. Shannon, professor emerita of African American literature at Howard University and foremost scholar of Wilson’s work, explores three institutions dedicated to Wilson in his hometown: the August Wilson House, the playwright’s childhood home in the Hill District that has been newly renovated to serve as an art center; the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, where a wide-ranging permanent exhibition on Wilson’s life and work, August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, was recently installed; and the August Wilson Archive at the University of Pittsburgh Library System, which houses a large and varied assortment of Wilson’s papers and personal collections. Shannon demonstrates in the article how these Pittsburgh institutions endeavor to impart, interpret and preserve Wilson’s legacy for the world.

Two features in this issue relate to the benefits of human–animal interaction, one in nature, the other on the farm. In “Repressing Disease in Cattle,” freelance writer Mary Franz traces the little-known story of Leonard Pearson, whose remarkable career began in 1892, when he became a professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, conducting vital research to combat tuberculosis and other debilitating diseases in livestock. Franz follows Pearson’s rise to dean of the school and his work in government as Pennsylvania state veterinarian under four governors, during which he helped develop a preventative vaccine for bovine tuberculosis, played a significant role in advancing his field in both theory and practice, and succeeded in establishing better health and sanitation measures in the meat industry.

Black bears were abundant in the Pennsylvania wilderness before colonization; their numbers were crucial to the food web, perpetuating a stable ecosystem in the region. But deforestation and overhunting throughout the years caused bear populations to drop to a critical level by the 1970s. In “Repopulating and Managing Black Bears in Pennsylvania,” wildlife enthusiast Joseph A. Luxbacher discusses the biological characteristics of black bears and the successful efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission in the past half-century to restore and sustain a healthy population of bears in the Keystone State.

While writing this letter I heard the sad news that one of America’s most eminent historians, Pittsburgh native David McCullough, passed away on August 7, 2022. Pennsylvania Heritage was fortunate to have published an interview with McCullough in the Summer 1994 edition, in which he explains his affection for the history of his hometown and state. Throughout his long career, McCullough made history accessible for the millions of people who read his bestselling nonfiction books, which were written like epic novels — The Johnstown Flood and The Great Bridge, The Path Between the Seas and Truman, John Adams and 1776. In these works and others, McCullough inspired countless historians in their approach to their subjects and conveyed that history “isn’t just part of our civic responsibility,” as he proclaimed in his 2003 Jefferson Lecture interview, “it’s an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is.”

Kyle R. Weaver
Editor