From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

On Thursday and Friday, May 2-3, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) will sponsor the twenty-fifth annual Conference on Black History in York. This conference series brings together scholars, teachers, and students to celebrate and to look critical­ly at the experience of African Americans over the past four centuries. Notable keynote speakers have included K. Leroy Irvis, Yolanda King, C. Delores Tucker, John Hope Franklin, August Wilson, John Edgar Wideman, William Gray, and Julian Bond.

York is an excellent location for the conference because African Americans have played a prominent part in shaping the city’s history. The Goodridge family, for example, carved out a highly success­ful niche in York’s business community from the 1820s through the 1860s. William C. Goodridge was a barber, real estate owner, and operator of a rail freight service. He also provided strong support for the Underground Railroad and there is evidence suggesting that he played an important role in the events that led to the 1851 Christiana Riot near Lancaster and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859.

One of Goodridge’s sons, Glenalvin, was a leading practitioner of the new technology of photography. By the early 1850s, he had become one of leading photographers in the Commonwealth and regularly received awards and commendations for his skill. He became, unfortunately, the subject of a highly controversial trial in 1862, accused of raping and assaulting a young white woman. In spite of conflicting evidence and indications of perjured testimony, a jury found Glenalvin Goodridge guilty in January 1863.

As soon as he began serving a five­-year sentence in Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, his father launched an intense campaign to secure a gubernator­ial pardon. A sympathetic Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin finally agreed, in December 1864, to pardon Glenalvin on the condition that he leave Pennsylvania. The following year, as promised, Goodridge departed York, and joined his brothers Wallace L. and William O. in East Saginaw, Michigan, where they owned a highly successful photogra­phy studio. Ironically, Glenalvin Goodridge’s ordeal coincided with the clinmtic events of the Civil War, including President Abraham Lincoln’s stirring address at nearby Gettysburg.

York’s history of troubled race relations continues to attract the nation’s attention today, but there is also a strong commitment to forge interracial partnerships and to promote honest discussion about the past. The goal of the PHMC’s Conference on Black History is to shed light – and not heat – so that our history can, indeed, be a resource for living in the present and for charting new directions for the future.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director