Central Pennsylvania African American History for Everyone
              An online resource since 1997.


Banner headline Former Slave Dies



the 20th Century

Auntie Henrietta Harrison, a Formerly Enslaved
African American Resident of Harrisburg


Significant numbers of formerly enslaved African Americans made their homes in central Pennsylvania in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some escaped enslavement and traveled north via the Underground Railroad before 1865. Many more found themselves no longer enslaved by war's end and looked north for job opportunites or to escape the harsh poverty and crushing racism of southern Reconstruction. The first few decades of the 20th century saw large numbers of southern Blacks moving north to take advantage of the plentiful jobs in northern industries.

Their presence in northern cities enriched each African American community. Their shared first-hand stories of lives enslaved broadened the historical perspective and served to counter the "Lost Cause" myths. Knowing which citizens were formerly enslaved is invaluable for modern historians and persons researching their family histories. Small connections can often add up to bigger stories. The news items below represent snippets in the lives of these persons.

News of Sudden Death, December 29, 1891

1891 News of Death of Auntie Henrietta Harrison, Harrisburg, PA.

Text of News Item:

  Auntie Henrietta Harrison, a Harrisburg Centenarian Burns to Death.

  HARRISBURG, Dec. 28. -- [Special.]-- "Auntie" Henrietta Harrison, an ex-slave and 105 years old, was roasted to death this afternoon while endeavoring to light her pipe. The old woman, who retained her faculties to a remarkable degree, although physically feeble, lived with her niece, who worked out all day. In stooping down to light her pipe, her calico wrapper caught fire, and she was immediately enveloped in flames.

  "Auntie" Harrison was born in South Carolina in 1786, and lived there in slavery until the emancipation proclamation was issued. Then she moved to Williamsport, Md., where, in spite of the fact that she was over 70, she married. Her husband, who was about the same age, died very shortly after the marriage. The old woman came to Harrisburg and has supported herself until the last year or two when her niece cared for her. The extreme age of the woman is vouched for by a number of persons.

The Pittsburg Dispatch, Pittsburgh, PA, 29 December 1891, p.5
The Evening Herald, Shenandoah, PA, 29 December 1891, p.3

Afrolumens Project Home | Enslavement | Underground Railroad | 19th Century | 20th Century

Original material on this page copyright 2023 Afrolumens Project