The Fearless Benjamin Lay by Marcus Rediker

The Fearless Benjamin Lay The Quaker Dwarf Who Became The First Revolutionary Abolitionist by Marcus Rediker Beacon Press, 224 pp., cloth $26.95 Who cares about Benjamin Lay (1682–1759), a 4-foot-tall, malformed, 18th-century member of a minority religious network known as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)? Until recently, not very many people. But in seven gracefully crafted chapters...
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A Treasure Trove of Books

Considered one of the finest repositories of rare books in the nation, the Rare Book Collection of the State Library of Pennsylvania was, at its conception, nothing more than an accumulation of law books necessary for the founding fathers to organize and govern the province. In­deed, for two more centuries, the collection of rarities and unique volumes, as it is known and safeguarded today, was...
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What Love Can Do: William Penn’s Holy Experiment in Education

The founder of Pennsyl­vania stands atop Philadelphia’s City Hall, seemingly sur­veying a “Holy Experiment” he nurtured out of the ideals of his Quaker faith. William Penn, the political theorist, is still remembered for his daring experiment in establishing a colony dedicated to pacifism, civil liberty and religious free­dom in a seventeenth century world conditioned by...
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The Consequences of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania

One of the more interesting and controversial aspects of the American Revolution concerns its consequen­ces upon colonial institutions and society in general. Was the society left almost unchanged by a movement fun­damentally conservative in its causes, or was it profoundly altered by a revolution radical in its results, if not in its origins? Specifically, what happened to the society of...
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How to Uncover Black Family History

Genealogy has replaced astrology as America’s favorite topic at social gatherings. Several factors are responsible in sparking the present upsurge in Black genealogy. The civil rights movement of the 1960’s encouraged a feeling of Black solidarity that had not existed before. Marches, demonstrations, and mass jailings brought together diverse elements of the Black community and made...
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A Quaker Testimony to the American Revolution

On a cool, pleasant early autumn morn­ing in the year 1834, John Price Wetherill made his way hastily down the vacant streets of Philadelphia towards the city’s western edge. Most of the respectable people were already seated in their churches, listening to the angelic sound of a choir or the piercing exhortation of a min­ister. Little did Wetherill care on this Sunday morning about...
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Pushing William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” to Its Limits: Ephrata Cloister

On the banks of the Cocalico Creek in northern Lancaster County a group of remarkable individuals established Ephrata, one of colonial Pennsylvania’s most unusual communities. A place of intense spirituality, unconventional way of life, literary and artistic brilliance, and medieval-style architecture, Ephrata was the center of a religious society whose principles gave William Penn’s...
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Fanny M. Jackson and Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth

This idea was deep in my soul. Where it came from I cannot tell. It was in me to get an education and teach my people.” The sentiment was written nearly a century ago, in 1912, by Fanny M. Jackson Coppin (1837-1913), principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth (ICY). All but forgotten today, Coppin and her distinguished career of nearly four decades at the Institute for...
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A Friend Among Quakers

On the balmy evening of May 3, 1784, Anthony Benezet affectionately bade farewell to his wife Joyce. Philadelphia’s most admired Quaker reformer, suffering from a prolonged illness, realized that death was near and took to his bed on the second story of their modest Chestnut Street residence. “We have lived long, in love and peace,” he comforted his spouse of forty-eight years....
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Susquehannocks, Catholics in Seventeenth-Century Pennsylvania

With its seemingly endless vistas of shopping malls, housing developments, technology parks, truck terminals, and warehouses, it’s hard to imagine Pennsylvania’s lower Susquehanna River valley a vast, undisturbed wilderness. Yet, little more than two centuries ago, the region was home to a group of Native Americans generally called the Susquehannocks, but also known as the Minqua, the Andaste,...
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