Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania by Beverly C. Tomek

Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania by Beverly C. Tomek Temple University Press, 144 pp., paperback $19.95 For generations, textbook histories discussing Pennsylvania and slavery made Pennsylvania look good. They focused on Quaker antislavery activism, passage of a pathbreaking gradual abolition law, and the emergence of a series of notable antislavery leaders, both African American and white....
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Centre Avenue YMCA

Pittsburgh’s African American Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) originated in 1893 as a men’s Bible class at Old Bethel AME Church, which then formed a social and recreational club for young men and boys. This group was not officially recognized as a YMCA affiliate group until 1906, at which point they rented meeting space at 1847 Centre Avenue in the Hill District and became the third...
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Translingual Inheritance by Elizabeth Kimball

Translingual Inheritance Language Diversity in Early National Philadelphia by Elizabeth Kimball University of Pittsburgh Press, 211 pp., hardcover $50 At the beginning of this book’s first chapter, the author poses the question, “What if we imagined a United States of America not in English?” This may call to mind the murky (and unfounded) legend about German and English supposedly competing...
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Charles F. West: Athlete, Physician and Trailblazer

On September 18, 2021, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission and Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) dedicated a Pennsylvania Historical Marker honoring Charles Fremont West (1899–1979) of the W&J Class of 1924. West was a true hometown hero, as he was born in Washington, Pennsylvania, attended Washington High School, and then graduated from W&J. The dedication was...
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From the Executive Director

Civil rights, voting rights and race relations. These are all topics of conversation today, as they have been for more than a century and a half across the United States, including here in Pennsylvania. But without a shared knowledge about the history of these topics, it becomes harder to have meaningful and productive conversations. This summer we are opening a new exhibit at The State Museum...
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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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