Central Pennsylvania African American History for Everyone
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the 20th Century

William H. Johnson, a Formerly Enslaved
African American Resident


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.

Death Notice, January 25, 1919

1919 Death notice for William Johnson, a formerly enslaved resident of Mount Holly Springs.

Text of news article:
Old Slave Dies

  Carlisle, Pa., Jan. 25. -- Born in slavery and for many years a field hand on a Virginia plantation, William H. Johnson, died of old age at his home in Mount Holly Springs. He was a resident of that town since the Civil War. He recently passed the century mark and was one of the oldest residents of this section. Four sons and a daughter survive.

Telegraph, Harrisburg, PA, 25 January 1919, p. 3.

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