A Gathering at the Crossroads: Memorializing African American Trailblazers and a Lost Neighborhood in Harrisburg

Twice during the second half of 2020, people gathered at Harrisburg’s Capitol Park to witness the dedication of A Gathering at the Crossroads, a monument commemorating four statewide civil rights crusaders and the African American residents of a now-vanished neighborhood in Harrisburg who contributed to the commonwealth’s entrenched legacy of freedom. The monument, sculpted by Becky Ault,...
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Piecing Together Pandenarium: Archaeology at the Site of a Free Black Community in Western Pennsylvania

In 1854 newly freed African American men, women and children hailing from a plantation in Ablemarle County, Virginia, arrived at a dusty country crossroads in northwestern Pennsylvania’s Mercer County. Estimates vary, but approximately 63 free people settled together on 100 acres of their own land. Local abolitionists prepared for the arrival by building houses along the hill, digging wells, and...
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Crawford Grill No. 2

The Sochatoff Building sits at the corner of Wylie Avenue and Elmore Street in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood. This three-story building was constructed in 1917 and would later hold the nationally renowned jazz club Crawford Grill No. 2 between 1945 and 2003. The club, which occupied the entire first floor of the building, was established by African American businessman William Augustus...
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The Manumission of Samuel Stephens

In 1783 Stuart George Dallas and his wife Elizabeth, formerly of the island of Jamaica, filed a manumission contract in Philadelphia for enslaved 12-year-old Samuel “Sammy” Stephens. George Bryan of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered a writ of habeas corpus for Samuel Stephens to be brought before him on July 1, 1786. The manumission contract, pictured here, is preserved in the Pennsylvania...
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Dorothy Mae Richardson, Community Activist

In the 1960s older intercity neighborhoods in Pittsburgh were being demolished as part of an urban renewal program called the “Pittsburgh Renaissance.” Many lower income residents, primarily African Americans, were forced out of their homes. Some were relocated into public housing, but others were left without a plan for affordable living. Additionally, financial institutions began “redlining”...
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Editor’s Letter

History is revisited and revised not only because newly found or overlooked evidence is uncovered through the years but also because distance in time and transformations in society often call for a fresh outlook to provide context and meaning for readers today. The features in this edition of Pennsylvania Heritage are written by experts who have been involved in extensive research in their...
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“Without Fear and Without Reproach”: Octavius V. Catto and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the City of Philadelphia unveiled a monument to Octavius V. Catto in a ceremony at the southwestern apron of City Hall. Catto was a cornerstone figure in Philadelphia’s early civil rights struggle — a recruiter of an African American militia during the Civil War, an instrumental figure in the victory to desegregate Philadelphia’s horse-drawn streetcars, a...
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Pennsylvania’s Ratification of the 15th Amendment

Black men in Pennsylvania were given the right to vote not once but twice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pennsylvania’s Constitution of 1776 had permitted tax-paying free Black men to vote. In 1838, however, Black suffrage became a point of high contention during a new Pennsylvania constitutional convention. Opposing groups sent various petitions to the convention advocating for and against...
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Editor’s Letter

The features in this edition focus on Pennsylvanians who strived for a more equitable, pluralistic America. The articles cover a period from the mid-19th century into the early 20th, a time when movements for civil rights were emerging and new barriers were being broken in several social and cultural realms. The story of Octavius V. Catto reflects a key moment in the history of the struggle for...
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Fighter’s Heaven: Muhammad Ali’s Training Camp in the Pennsylvania Wilderness

On a mountainside overlooking Deer Lake, in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County, is a restored boxers’ training camp called Fighter’s Heaven, originally built by Muhammad Ali (1942–2016) in 1972. The Champ, as he boastfully called himself, designed the boxing haven during the early phase of his post-three-year-suspension comeback tour in order to escape the hullabaloo of civilization as he trained...
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