A Full-Circle Moment: Three Pittsburgh Institutions Work to Secure August Wilson’s Legacy

August Wilson seemed perturbed when he met journalist Abiola Sinclair for a May 1990 interview in his favorite nook in the lobby of New York’s famed Edison Hotel. This candid session, published later in New York Amsterdam News, included the exasperated playwright’s charge that — despite having four of his American Century Cycle plays performed on Broadway — his work had not received the...
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A Place for All: Three Stories of Integration in Pennsylvania

The American Civil Rights Movement focused public attention on segregation in the South and the laws and practices that kept Southern Blacks disenfranchised. By the late 1950s places such as Montgomery, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Greensboro, North Carolina, had become household names in the battle to dismantle the racial caste system of “Jim Crow.” But discrimination based on race, much...
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Editor’s Letter

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...
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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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