Innovative African Americans in Pennsylvania History

“Once [I was arrested] for standing in the road to prevent trucks from entering a housing construction site where no Blacks were employed, [and] a second time for leading a demonstration against a slum landlord [by conducting a prayer service in the street].” Those are the words of LeRoy Patrick (1915– 2006), minister, civil rights leader, former member of the Pennsylvania Historical and...
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Cumberland Willis Posey Sr., Entrepreneur

Cumberland Willis Posey Sr. (1858-1925) never let his circumstances define him; instead, he turned them into opportunities – not just for himself but also for his community. Born on August 30, 1858, to former slaves Elizabeth Willis Posey and Alexander Posey, he grew up in Port Tobacco, Maryland. His mother died when he was seven years old, and his father, a minister, moved the family to...
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Louise Tanner Brown, Businesswoman

Like many women born in the late nineteenth century, Louise Tanner Brown (circa 1883–1954) was educated and trained for cottage industry work, a variety of home-based businesses that included sewing, laundry, cleaning, beauty care, and hairdressing. Cottage industries were especially important in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,...
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Henry “Harry” T. Burleigh

Early Life in Erie One year after the end of the American Civil War, Henry “Harry” T. Burleigh was born in Erie, on December 2, 1866, into an African American family which still sang the songs of slavery. Burleigh was the son of Henry Burley and Elizabeth Waters. After her husband died, Elizabeth changed the family name to Burleigh. The younger Burleigh recalled that the slave songs were...
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