The Fastest Man on Earth: Barney Ewell and the Story of Two Missed Olympiads

Who is the fastest sprinter of all time? Usain Bolt won eight Olympic gold medals between 2008 and 2016. He also secured 11 World Championships, and his world records in the 100 metres and 200 metres have yet to be broken. Before Bolt was Carl Lewis, winner of nine Olympic golds and 10 World Championships in the 1980s and 1990s. A generation earlier was Tommie Smith and Bob Hayes. Before Smith...
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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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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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Indomitable: Ora Washington, Philadelphia’s Ultimate Sports Trailblazer

On June 5, 1971, the African American newspaper Philadelphia Tribune published an obituary for an individual it called “Superwoman.” Although it was a fitting homage, few who read the Tribune that day would have appreciated the level of deference granted to the individual at the center of that tribute. Her name was Ora Mae Washington (1898–1971). Another African American paper, the Pittsburgh...
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100 Games: The Penn State–Pitt Rivalry

It “leaves an everlasting impression on you because, in Pennsylvania, it’s the only game that counts,” wrote Tim Panaccio about the rivalry between the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers in his 1982 book Beast of the East: Penn State vs. Pitt. In the same breath, he added, “Records don’t mean a thing, just who wins this game.” Panaccio’s...
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Biz Mackey, a Giant Behind the Plate by Rich Westcott

Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher by Rich Westcott Temple University Press, 208 pp., cloth $27.50 Rich Westcott, former president of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association, commonly maintains that professional baseball, with its complicated racial history, “is not one that can be easily digested.” While true, the career of James...
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“I Must Be an Abolitionist”: Pennsylvania Liberty Man Francis Julius LeMoyne

In 1839, when William Lloyd Garrison (1805–79) and his allies lost control of the abolitionist movement in Warsaw, New York, African Americans could only vote in seven states. In the North, free blacks could neither sue nor own weapons, and their wages were disproportionate with those of their white counterparts for the same type of work. The Slave Power seemingly strengthened its influence in...
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Chuck Noll by Michael MacCambridge

Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work by Michael MacCambridge University of Pittsburgh Press, 504 pp., cloth $27.95 There is a saying in the world of professional sports that a coach will not know for five to ten years whether a decision to accept a job was the right choice. That maxim, in essence, says everything about the risks of making a career out of professional coaching, and it is the theme...
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Keep the Boys in College! How World War I Produced a Penn State Football Legend

Pennsylvanians who remember Glenn Killinger (1898–1988) often envision the legendary coach of West Chester State Teachers’ College football and baseball teams during the decades that spanned 1933 to 1970. His name often comes up in conversations about Paul “Bear” Bryant as one of the two unbending football minds who led the North Carolina Pre-Flight Cloudbusters to one of the...
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