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Central Pennsylvania's journey
from enslavement to freedom

Link to Enslavement in Pennsylvania section. Link to the Anti-Slavery and Abolition Section.

Link to the Free Persons of Color -- 19th Century History Section.

Link to the Underground Railroad Section.
link to The Violent Decade Section Link to the US Colored Troops Section
Link to Harrisburg's Civil War Section Link to Century of Change -- the 20th Century Section
Link to the Letters Archive Link to Read The Year of Jubilee

Local Interest

Read Joe McClure's PennLive biography of William Howard Day, a prominent African American abolitionist associated with Harrisburg.

Read Joyce M. Davis' PennLive article about Hodges Heights, a historic African American development in Lower Paxton Township.

Site News

Baseball season is here. Harrisburg has a wonderful legacy of Negro Leagues baseball teams. Read "Blackball," the detailed article by Ted Knorr and Calobe Jackson, Jr. here: Blackball in Harrisburg.

Just uploaded--"1700 and 1726 Acts for the Regulation of Negroes." Full text of the harsh "Black Codes" passed in colonial Pennsylvania to regulate free Blacks and enslaved persons. Check it all out here: 1700 and 1726 Acts for the Regulation of Negroes.

New Section--"Former Slaves." News items about formerly enslaved African American residents. Check it out here:
News headline of death of formerly enslaved person.

Newly restored: Photos and video from Harrisburg's 2010 "Grand Review of Colored Troops." Check it out here:
African American Civil War re-enactors parade on Front Street.  USCT Re-enactor at the Harris-Cameron mansion.


On This Date

July events important to local African American history (see the whole year)

July 2, 1777: Vermont becomes the first state to abolish slavery when it outlaws it in its state constitution.

July 2, 1908: Thurgood Marshall, first African American appointed to the Supreme Court, is born in Baltimore.

July 4, 1836: Plans for the organization of an Adams County Antislavery Society are laid at an Independence Day picnic at McAllister’s Mill.
(More on the Adams County Anti-Slavery Efforts here)

July 9, 1893: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams sutures a wound to the pericardium of a stabbing victim, applying stringent antiseptic and sterilization measures, and becomes the first surgeon to perform successful open heart surgery.

July 11, 1905: The Niagara Movement is founded by W.E.B. DuBois to demand full equal rights for African Americans. This group was formed to oppose the views of Booker T. Washington, who advocated patience on the part of African Americans in waiting for civil rights. Among the founders of the Niagara Movement was Harrisburg attorney William Justin Carter, Sr.
(Read William Justin Carter, Sr's biography here)

July 13, 1863: Anti-draft rioters kill hundreds of African Americans in four days of violence in New York City.

July 20, 1847: A number of Harrisburg’s African American residents meet in Wesley Union Church “to take into consideration the propriety of inviting W. L. Garrison and F. Douglass to pay them a visit on their route to the West.” Edward Bennett, Thomas Early, and John F. Williams are appointed to draft a resolution inviting the abolitionists to visit Harrisburg.
(Read more about how Harrisburg Blacks arranged this visit here)

July 22, 1780: The first central Pennsylvania slave registrations, required by the 1780 Gradual Abolition Law, are recorded in Lancaster when store keeper Christopher Crawford, who lived in town, registered his “Negro male” Bill, aged ten years and six months, and his “Negro female” Esther, aged nineteen years and six months, with county Clerk of the Peace John Hubley.
(Crawford's registration data is here.)

July 24, 1845: Slave catcher Thomas Finnegan and his gang kidnap Kitty Payne and her three children from a home in Bendersville, Adams County. Finnegan was eventually captured, tried for kidnapping in November 1846, found guilty and sentenced to five years in Eastern Penitentiary.
(A detailed account of the Kitty Payne kidnapping is here)

July 25, 1847: Liberia declares its independence.

July 25, 1918: Beginning of four days of race riots in Chester, Pennsylvania that leave five people dead.

July 26, 1918: Beginning of four days of race riots in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that leave four people dead.

July 26, 1948: President Harry S Truman issues executive orders that institute fair hiring practices in the civilian government and wipe out segregation in the armed forces.

July 28, 1868: The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is finally ratified, two years after its passage, guaranteeing citizenship and protection of rights to African Americans. The delay was caused by the refusal of Southern states to ratify the amendment.

July 30, 1852: James Phillips returns to Harrisburg with attorney Charles C. Rawn, who successfully bargained for his release in Richmond after ten weeks in a slave prison. They arrived late at night to a “tumultuous welcome” from Harrisburg’s African American community, which met the men at the train station. After a joyous reunion with his wife and children, the crowd put the Phillips family in a small wagon and staged an impromptu welcome home parade through town.
(Read James Phillips' story here)


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