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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“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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Emilie Davis’s Civil War by Judith Giesberg

Emilie Davis’s Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865 edited by Judith Giesberg, transcribed and annotated by the Memorable Days Project Penn State Press, 240 pp., cloth $59.95, paper $16.95 Free African American servant and seamstress Emilie Davis lived in Philadelphia during the Civil War and recorded her daily experiences and thoughts in a diary from January...
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Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation Newsletter

Topics in the Summer 2013 Newsletter: Stories from the Homefront: Pennsylvania in the Civil War Opens in September New PaHeritage.org Website Trailheads: 250 Years on the Pennsylvania Trails of History Welcome New PHF Members Welcome New State Museum Affiliate Members PHF Board Harrisburg SciTech High School Docents Washington Crossing Historic Park Visitor Center Pennsylvania Lumber Museum...
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A Gift from the Grave

Barbara Barksdale lowers her head and chuckles at the brief mention of her nickname. The lay historian from Steelton, Dauphin County, knows that she’s earned her humorous handle. She’s even incorporated it into her email address. “They call me the cemetery lady,” she says with just a hint of pride. For more than two decades, Barksdale has tended to the needs of the historic Midland Cemetery in...
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How They Served: Recovering the Experiences of Five Pennsylvanians in the American Civil War

Pennsylvania supplied approximately 362,000 soldiers to the Union effort in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. This was more than any other Northern state except New York. The Keystone State suffered the loss of 33,183 sons to death while in war service, and virtually every aspect of Pennsylvania society was affected by the pervasive nature of the great conflict and its staggering cost in terms of...
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Painted With Pride in the U.S.A.

Although not a sketch artist like William Forbes and Alfred Waud, who drew scenes from the battlefield, African American painter David Bustill Bowser (1820-1900) is considered a Civil War artist-but for a much different reason. Active in Philadelphia from 1844 to 1889, he painted portraits of abolitionist John Brown and President Abraham Lincoln. Most important, he painted the regimental colors...
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Finding Sanctuary at Montrose

On Friday afternoon, April 9, 1842, William Smith, a slave owned by a Maryland widow, sought shelter in her manor house from the teeming rain. He was drenched after having toiled all morning in the inclement weather. As he stood drying by the stove, one of the widow’s young sons berated him. “What are you doing in here,” snapped the youngster. “You stand there happy as a lord. You don’t belong...
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The Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls Project

Imagine, nearly a century and a half ago, an entire company of soldiers mustering out at the end of their service. A hundred or more war-wearied men line up and, one-by-one, give a personal accounting to field clerks as they leave the army to return home. Company officers sitting at a makeshift table huddle over a huge sheet of heavy ruled paper and list each soldier and record what happened to...
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“In Immortal Splendor”: Wilkes-Barre’s Fugitive Slave Case of 1853

On Saturday morning, September 3, 1853, U.S. Federal Marshal George Wynkoop of Philadelphia and two deputies, John Jenkins and James Crossen, sat down to breakfast in the dining room of the Phoenix Hotel on River Street in the Luzerne County seat of Wilkes-Barre. At the far end of the room was a handsome, powerfully built mulatto named Bill (or, according to various newspaper accounts, known as...
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