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20th Century

Events of Significance to Local African American History
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January 1, 1826: African American preacher Jarena Lee preaches at the Methodist Episcopal Church on the southeast corner of Second and South streets in Harrisburg. While in town, she stayed with a Mr. Williams. (Read more here)

January 1, 1831: William Lloyd Garrison publishes his first issue of The Liberator.

January 1 1836: American Anti-Slavery Society lecturer Samuel L. Gould speaks at the Wesley Church in Judystown, an African American neighborhood of Harrisburg, addressing a mostly African American audience. His series of anti-slavery speeches inflames the local town council, which, fearing he is "exciting the colored population of this borough," issues an official resolution calling for him to "desist from his efforts."
Read more about Samuel L. Gould and his activities in Harrisburg.

January 1, 1863: The Emancipation Proclamation is issued. (text here)

January 3, 1816: Stephen Smith becomes a free man as he buys his freedom from Thomas Boude of Columbia with fifty dollars borrowed from a friend. He would rise to become a leader in his community and church, an Underground Railroad activist, and the wealthiest African American businessman in America during his time.

January 7, 1891: Novelist and dramatist Zora Neale Hurston is born in Eatonville, Florida.

January 9, 1861:
Mississippi becomes the second state to secede from the Union.

January 9, 1866: The first classes are held at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. This historic African American college is named for General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedman’s Bureau. Graduates include W.E.B. DuBois and John Hope Franklin.

January 10, 1861: Florida becomes the third state to secede from the Union.

January 11, 1861: Alabama becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union.

January 13, 1863: Federal officials formally authorize the raising of African American troops for the South Carolina Volunteer Infantry.

January 14, 1836: Harrisburg Anti-Slavery Society is formed. Its president is Rev. Nathan Stem, of the Episcopal Church. Vice-presidents are William W. Rutherford and Mordecai McKinney. Other notable members are Alexander Graydon and Rev. John Winebrenner.
Read more about how the Harrisburg Anti-Slavery Society was formed

January 15, 1863: Harrisburg’s leading African American residents meet in the Bethel A.M.E. Church to form a response to the Emancipation Proclamation. Hailing a “new era in our country’s history,” they pledge to take up arms alongside white soldiers “if called upon.”
Read the proclamation here.

January 15, 1929: Civil rights leader and founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King, Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia.

January 16, 1838: First statewide meeting of the Pennsylvania Antislavery Society opens in Harrisburg’s Shakespeare Hall, a year after its founding in the same place. The three days of meetings are attended by Charles C. Rawn.

January 18, 1856: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams is born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Dr. Williams performed the first open heart surgery in 1893 when he sutured a knife wound to the pericardium of a stabbing victim.

January 19, 1861: Georgia becomes the fifth state to secede from the Union.

January 20, 1838: At the state Constitutional Convention in Harrisburg, delegates voted 77 to 45 to restrict the vote in Pennsylvania to “white freemen.” African American men would not regain the right to vote in Pennsylvania until passage of the 15th Amendment, in 1870.

January 25, 1972: Shirley Chisholm announces her candidacy for the presidency of the U.S.

January 26, 1861: Louisiana becomes the sixth state to secede from the Union.

January 27, 1800: A public auction is held in Lower Paxton Township, at the home of tanner Jacob Awl, to sell enslaved persons Peter and Grace, as well as other possessions.

January 28, 1838: Anti-slavery activist William H. Burleigh speaks in Harrisburg. Burleigh had attended a lecture by Dr. Booth of the Pennsylvania Colonization Society, held at a local church on the same day, and in a letter to The Liberator, denounced Booth as a "pro-slavery man" promoting colonization.

January 29, 1861: Kansas is admitted to the Union as a free state.

January 31, 1837: Shakespeare Hall in Harrisburg is the site of a convention to form a state anti-slavery society. Three hundred people attended and the proceedings were reported to The Liberator by correspondent John Greenleaf Whittier.

January 31, 1845: Attempted kidnapping in Harrisburg of African American resident Peter Hawkins by the notorious slave catcher Thomas Finnegan.


February 1, 1861: Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union.

February 1. 1865: Illinois becomes the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.

February 1, 1902: Langston Hughes, poet and writer, is born in Joplin, Missouri.

February 2, 1866: President Andrew Johnson meets with a delegation of African Americans, led by Frederick Douglass, who ask him to support the vote for African American men. Johnson refuses to support the idea.

February 3, 1837: The Pennsylvania Antislavery Society is formed in convention at Shakespeare Hall in Harrisburg. Attendees include Dr. F. Julius LeMoyne, Charles C. Burleigh, Jonathan Blanchard, and Benjamin Lundy.
Read the full story of the first Anti-Slavery Convention in Harrisburg here.

February 3, 1977: The final episode of the televised version of Alex Haley’s Roots draws the highest ratings ever to that point.

February 6, 1820: First American freed slaves establish a colony on the coast of Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. The Elizabeth, called the “Mayflower of Liberia,” departs from New York carrying 86 free African Americans, bound for Sierra Leone.

February 7, 1926: The first “Negro History Week” to be observed begins. Educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson designates the second week of February as a week for his students to study the accomplishments and history of African Americans.

February 8, 1865: Delegates to The State Equal Rights Convention of Colored People of Pennsylvania meet in Harrisburg to again petition for the restoration of the vote to African American men.

February 8,1915: D.W. Griffith’s motion picture "Birth of a Nation" is released. Its blatantly racist imagery provokes the NAACP to boycott the movie and protest its screenings. It is in response to this movie, however, that African American cinema begins to appear and flourish.

February 9, 1802: "Negro Elizabeth" takes out an advertisement in the York Recorder, giving notice to all that she was formerly enslaved by Joseph Chambers, deceased, but is now living as a free woman in the Borough of York. To anyone who might lay claim to her, she added that she "she means to continue (living free in York), and to insist upon her right to freedom.
See the enslavement listing for this person, and an image of her advertisement, here.

February 10, 1927: Soprano Leontyne Price is born in Laurel, Mississippi. Price made her Broadway debut in 1952, and her operatic debut in 1957.

February 12, 1793: Passage of the first Federal Fugitive Slave Act, intended to replace the legal maze of local, state and pre-existing federal laws regarding fugitive slaves.
Read more about the background of the first Fugitive Slave Act.

February 12, 1909: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed as a means to protect African American rights in the courts.

February 14. 1818: Abolitionist Frederick Douglass is born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He changed his last name to Douglass after his escape and settlement in the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Because his actual day of birth was unknown to him, Douglass adopted February 14th as his birthday.
See also September 3, 1838.

February 15, 1851: The “Shadrach Rescue” takes place in Boston. Fred Wilkins, known as “Shadrach,” was seized by federal officials as a fugitive slave, but the well-known local man was successfully rescued from the courthouse by a crowd of fifty African Americans. None of those charged in the rescue was ever convicted.

February 18, 1688: The “Germantown Protest” is written. Garret Hendericks, Derick up de Graeff, Abraham up den Graef and Francis Daniell Pastorius, four Quakers at Germantown, Pennsylvania, write a protest against the enslavement of Africans. Based upon the Golden Rule, it was delivered to the larger Monthly Meeting, where it was not acted upon and was largely ignored.
Read about other early anti-slavery activists in Pennsylvania here.

February 18, 1969: Simmering racial unrest flares up in Harrisburg’s schools. Arson fires and assaults on students caused the John Harris, William Penn and Camp Curtin schools to close for a day until order could be restored. John Harris High School was closed again due to “open rebellion,” in the words of school superintendent Glenn Parker, on February 20.

February 20, 1843: Paxton Lodge No. 5, an African American Masonic Lodge, is established in Harrisburg.

February 20, 1895: Death of Frederick Douglass.

February 21, 1803: The first of several disastrous fires strikes York borough when the stable of Richard Koch burns to the ground. An occurance of severe fires every few days leading local officials to suspect arson. Suspicion falls upon local African American residents and is seemingly confirmed when a young African American resident is caught setting a fire. Curfews and travel restrictions are placed upon free and enslaved Black residents within a ten-mile radius of the borough. At a trial in May, several are convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of up to twelve years in the penitentiary at Philadelphia. The fires are generally assumed by many historians to be an expression of violent resistance to the February conviction of an enslaved York woman, Margaret Bradley, charged with poisoning two white women in the town.

February 21, 1965: Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.

February 22, 1839: Octavius Valentine Catto is born in Charleston, South Carolina. Catto became a teacher at Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth and was invaluable in raising large numbers of African American troops during the Civil War. A tireless equal rights activist, Catto was murdered on Election Day, October 10, 1871 by opposition party rowdies.
A biography of Octavius Valentine Catto is here.

February 22, 1841: Painter Grafton Tyler Brown is born in Harrisburg.

February 22, 1861: Abraham Lincoln stops in Harrisburg on the way to his inauguration in Washington. The President-elect and his entourage arrived by train on Market Street at two o'clock, p.m., to a welcoming committee headed by Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin backed by thousands of Pennsylvania militiamen. The presidential party stayed at the Jones House on Market Square. About four hours later, the President-elect was spirited out of town, under cover of darkness, to a waiting train, for a hair-raising night journey to Washington, to foil an assassination plot.
Read a detailed account of Lincoln's appearances in Harrisburg here.

February 22, 1888: Painter Horace Pippin is born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Pippin is perhaps best known for his painting “John Brown Going to his Hanging.”

February 23, 1869: W.E.B. DuBois is born.

February 24, 1811: Daniel Alexander Payne is born in Charleston, South Carolina to free African American parents Martha and London Payne. Daniel Payne attended the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg in 1835 and went on to become the sixth bishop of the A.M.E. church. He founded Wilberforce University, becoming the first African American president of a college.
Read about Daniel Alexander Payne's anti-slavery acitivites Central Pennsylvania here.

February 24, 1837: An anti-abolition meeting in Susquehanna Township elects trustees to manage the Hailman Schoolhouse in the township. The citizens charge the trustees with allowing the use of the schoolhouse for preaching, "but in no event shall they open the door to lectures on abolitionism, negroism, and amalgamationism."

February 25, 1782: Thirty-year-old Hercules Johnston, “a mulatto,” enlists in the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment, in Carlisle. Johnston is described as “5 Feet 8 inches high, born in Paxtang, Lancaster county (now Dauphin County), short black curled hair, a blemish on his left eye, yellow complexion, by trade a hammerman."

February 25, 1870: Hiram Revels, first African American in the U. S. Senate, begins his term.

February 26, 1869: Congress approves the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, giving the vote to African Americans. The amendment must be ratified by the states.


March 2, 1867: Congress passes the Reconstruction Act

March 3, 1865: The Freedman’s Bureau is established by Congress to provide assistance to freed slaves.

March 4, 1837: An anti-abolition meeting is held at the Unitarian Church to elect delegates to the May 1837 state Integrity of the Union Convention, at the Dauphin County Courthouse.
A discussion of the Anti-Abolition movement in Harrisburg may be found here.

March 5. 1770: The infamous Boston Massacre occurs. The first person to be killed by British troops is Crispus Attucks, a 47 year-old seaman living in Boston. Attucks had escaped from slavery in Framingham twenty years before his martyrdom.

March 6, 1857: Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivers the Supreme Court decision against Dred Scott, a slave seeking his freedom, and declaring that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the territories of the United States. Writing for the majority decision, Justice Taney wrote that African Americans "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it."

March 7, 1756: The enslaved man of Andrew Lycan, of Wiconisco, helps defend the farm from an attack by hostile Native American raiders. The un-named slave was then entrusted to evacuate the wounded to safety in Hanover Township when the attack threatened to overwhelm the defenders.
For more on how enslaved persons suffered in wartime, see this section.

March 9, 1820:
The Elizabeth, or the “Mayflower of Liberia,” arrives in Sierra Leone carrying 86 free African Americans who will begin a colony on the coast of Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society.

March 10, 1858: John Brown meets with Henry Highland Garnet, William Still, and other African American leaders at the Philadelphia home of Stephen Smith.
Read a detailed account of John Brown's recruiting efforts in central Pennsylvania here.

March 10, 1913: Harriet Tubman dies.

March 20, 1852:
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published in Boston with great fanfare. It had previously been serialized in the National Era, an abolitionist newspaper, but huge public demand led to its appearance in book form. The first edition of five thousand copies sold out in two days.

March 26, 1726: “An Act for the Better Regulation of Negroes in this Province,” is passed in Philadelphia. Designed to calm white fear of a growing African population, the law was a fully defined set of Black Codes that prohibited blacks from drinking, marrying whites, loitering, hiring out their own time, sheltering other Blacks, congregating in groups larger than four persons, carrying weapons, and traveling without a pass. Penalties included a return to enslavement.
Read the entire text of the act here.

March 30, 1870:
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, protecting the right to vote for African Americans.


April 1, 1837: Edward Prigg is indicted in York for the kidnapping of Margaret Morgan and her children in violation of the 1826 Pennsylvania Personal Liberty Law. This sets in motion a trial and appeal that ends up as the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Prigg vs Pennsylvania. (Read more here)

April 1, 1878: Dinah, former slave of the Cowden family, dies at about ninety years of age. She is buried in Paxton Presbyterian Church Cemetery. (Read more here)

April 2, 1845: A delegation of American Antislavery Society speakers, including Abby Kelley (later Abby Kelly Foster) and Jane Elizabeth Hitchcock, speak at the Courthouse in Harrisburg. A Philadelphia correspondent reports that they lectured to large audiences, "many of whom were ladies." Unfortunately, the lectures were marred by pro-slavery activists who "raised false alarms of fire," heckled the speakers, and showered the group with eggs. The women were also threatened with tar and feathers, and duckings. The speakers also spoke at local black churches, where they were unmolested by rowdies. (Read more here)

April 4. 1792: Thaddeus Stevens, named for the Polish patriot Thaddeus Kosciuszko, is born in Danville, Vermont to Joshua and Sarah Morrill Stevens.

April 4, 1968: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Lorraine Hotel while in town to lead a demonstration of striking sanitation workers against low wages and poor working conditions.

April 5, 1800: Eanus, the slave of Robert Clark, of Southampton Township, Cumberland County, is arrested for trying to protect his young son from being taken away by a new owner, Jesse Kilgore, of Newton Township. Eanus leveled a gun at Kilgore when the man tied up Eanus’ son, but Eanus was convinced to put the weapon down and surrender.
(Read more here)

April 5, 1839: Robert Smalls, the only African American naval captain to serve during the Civil War, is born in Beaufort, S.C.

April 5, 1856: Booker Taliaferro Washington, first principal of Tuskegee Institute, is born in Franklin County, Virginia.

April 7, 1712: The New York slave insurrection involved twenty-three enslaved persons who burned a slaveholder’s house, fought with authorities, and killed nine whites. Twenty-one of the rebels were executed, but the event shocked slaveholders across the colonies. Pennsylvania promptly imposed higher tariffs on the purchase of slaves in a temporarily successful measure to curb slave importation.

April 9, 1865: The forces of Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, surrender to General Ullysses S. Grant at the village of Appomatox Court House, Virginia. The surrender, which was finalized with a ceremony on April 12, effectively ended the war in Virginia.

April 9, 1866: Congress overrides a veto by President Johnson and passes the Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing citizenship and equal rights for African Americans.

April 12, 1787: Richard Allen and Absalom Jones form the Free African Society in Philadelphia.

April 12, 1861: The American Civil War begins with the shelling of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, by Confederate batteries. The bombardment began at four-thirty a.m. and continued for thirty-four hours. The Union garrison surrendered on Saturday, April 13, 1861.

April 12, 1865: The Army of Northern Virginia officially disbands and over 28,000 Confederate soldiers stacked their arms at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, and returned home, marking the end of the war in Virginia.

April 14, 1800: Caesar, the slave of John McAllister of Tyrone Township, Cumberland County (modern day Perry County), is beaten to death by William McAllister, John’s brother, for the supposed crime of stealing some money. Both men are later tried and found guilty of murder by a county court.

April 14, 1851: The Franklin family is arrested in Harrisburg, including a small child born in Pennsylvania. Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister tries to suppress protests by holding the hearing in the pre-dawn hours, but word gets out. The family is sent south without the youngest child, who is placed with a local black family.
(Read more here)

April 14, 1865: President Abraham Lincoln is shot at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth.

April 15, 1865: At 7:22 a.m., Abraham Lincoln dies from the wound received at Ford's Theater from assassin John Wilkes Booth.

April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American to play professional baseball in the major leagues when he appears at Ebbets Field with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

April 16, 1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia.

April 16, 1863: The Harrisburg Daily Telegraph reports on a fugitive slave who was being lawfully taken through the city back to slavery in Maryland.

April 17, 1861: Virginia becomes the eighth state to secede from the Union.

April 21, 1825: Harrisburg's first reported incident in which local Blacks come to the aid of a captured fugitive slave with the use of public demonstration and force in an unsuccessful rescue attempt.
(Read more here)

April 21, 1865: Abraham Lincoln's funeral train brings his body to Harrisburg, arriving about 8:30 p.m. At Market and Fifth streets, his body was transferred to a hearse hitched to four white horses. Grooms led the horses west on Market Street to the Square, turned north to travel along Second Street to State, where the funeral procession turned right to proceed to the Capitol. From 9:30 p.m. until midnight, Harrisburg citizens filied through the House Chamber of the Capitol to view his body in the open casket.
(Read more here) Also see April 22, 1865, below.

April 22, 1865: At 7 a.m., mourners began viewing Abraham Lincoln's body in the House Chamber of the Capitol at Harrisburg. At 9 a.m., the casket was closed and prepared for the funeral procession back to the waiting funeral train at the Market Street station. More than forty thousand people lined the route along State, Second and Market streets. Ordinary citizen mourners were allowed to join the funeral procession at the end, with African American citizens segregated to the very rear. The train pulled out of Harrisburg at 11 a.m.

April 25, 1821: Harrisburg borough passes an ordinance requiring all “free persons of color” to register with the town burgess and report their names, occupations, addresses and the names of all family members and other non-whites in their homes. They were required to notify borough authorities if they moved to another residence in town, and if anyone moved in with them. This ordinance was an attempt to control non-whites who were not already under the rigid controls of slavery and indentured servitude.
(Read more here), (See scans of the 1821 Registry here)

April 28, 1847: George B. Vashon, son of John Bethune Vashon, a political activist and Underground Railroad conductor of Carlisle and Pittsburgh, becomes the first African American to pass the New York State Bar. See also April 29, 1824.

April 29. 1824: Birthday of George Boyer Vashon, abolitionist, lawyer and educator. Born in Carlisle to abolitionist and rights activist John Bethune Vashon, George was the first African American graduate of Oberlin College. He studied law and was later president of Avery College in Pittsburgh. He would go on to help found Howard University.

April 29, 1852: A. D. Ridgely, a police officer from Baltimore, Maryland, shoots to death William Smith, an alleged fugitive slave working at a lumberyard in Columbia, PA. Ridgely was accompanied Solomon Snyder of Harrisburg, a deputy to Federal Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister in Harrisburg. The incident causes outrage in the north.
(Read more here)


May 1, 1837: The Friends of the Union Convention, also called the Integrity of the Union State Convention, opened at the Dauphin County Courthouse with about one hundred delegates. The purpose of the state convention appears to have been to ease the fears of slaveholders in the Southern states regarding the purpose and beliefs of Pennsylvania’s citizens. (Read about how this state convention came about)

May 2, 1837: Anti-slavery activist Thaddeus Stevens attends the statewide anti-abolition Integrity of the Union Convention in Harrisburg with the intent to disrupt and mock the proceedings, which he does. (Read about how Stevens disrupted the convention here)

May 6, 1861:
The Confederacy formally recognizes that a state of war exists with the United States of America. Arkansas becomes the ninth state to secede from the Union to join the Confederacy.

May 7, 1878: African American inventor Joseph Winters patents the wagon mounted fire escape ladder for the fire department of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, significantly enhancing the ability of firefighters to rapidly reach people in tall buildings.

May 9, 1800: John Brown is born at Torrington, Connecticut, the son of Owen and Ruth Mills Brown.

May 9, 1846: New England Abolitionist Charles T. Torrey dies in the Maryland Penitentiary of tuberculosis, just hours before a pardon from Maryland Governor Thomas G. Pratt reached the prison warden. In December 1844, Torrey had been convicted in Baltimore of aiding the slaves of Bushrod Taylor of Virginia and the slaves of William Heckrotte, of Baltimore, escape into Pennsylvania.

May 11, 1829: Patty Cannon, notorious kidnapper and leader of the Johnson-Cannon Gang, dies in a Delaware prison while awaiting trial for the murder of three people. (Read a detailed account of her gang's kidnapping operations here)

May 11, 1834: Thomas Morris Chester is born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the fourth child of George and Marie Chester. (More about the Chester Family here)
(In 2002, the cleaned tombstone of T. Morris Chester was unveiled in Lincoln Cemetery.)
May 14, 1838: Pennsylvania Hall opens in Philadelphia as a grand auditorium for anti-slavery and other social reform groups. It would be burned by a mob three days later.

May 17, 1838: Pennsylvania Hall, built by the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society as a meeting place for abolitionists, is burned by a mob incensed about whites and blacks meeting together at a female anti-slavery convention being held there.

May 17, 1954: U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education declares that the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public education is unconstitutional, setting the stage for the desegregation of American schools.

May 18, 1896: U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plessey vs. Ferguson establishes the doctrine of “separate but equal” public facilities for African Americans.

May 19, 1925: Malcolm X is born in Omaha, Nebraska.

May 20, 1861: North Carolina secedes, becoming the tenth state to join the Confederacy.

May 24, 1852: James Phillips, a longtime Harrisburg resident, is remanded south by U.S. Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister, causing an uproar not only in Harrisburg's African American community, but with local whites as well. Attorney Charles C. Rawn is dispatched to Richmond with $800 to buy Phillips' freedom. (Read a detailed version of this event here)

May 26, 1926: Jazz musician Miles Davis is born in St. Louis, Missouri.

May 28, 1866: William Justin Carter is born at Richmond, Virginia. A successful and prominent African American attorney in Harrisburg, W. Justin Carter was denied admission to the Dauphin County Bar on June 10, 1904 because of his race. Ninety-seven years later the Dauphin County Bar voted to admit him posthumously to correct an “egregious mistake.” (Read more about W. Justin Carter here)

May 31, 1921: Beginning of a two-day race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma that kills eighty-one people.


June 2, 1847: A violent protest by local African American citizens in Carlisle over the seizure of three African Americans as fugitive slaves becomes known as the McClintock Slave Riot due to the involvement of Dickinson College professor John McClintock. McClintock was subsequently acquitted of charges that he incited the riot. (Read a detailed account of the event here.)

June 8, 1861: Tennessee secedes, becoming the eleventh and final state to leave the Union and join the Confederacy.

June 12, 1854: Three men from Maryland, accompanied by a Philadelphia marshal, arrived in Harrisburg in search of a fugitive who was working in a brickyard in town. With US Slave Commissioner McAllister now forced from office through the efforts of local activists and the newspaper coverage by editor Theophilus Fenn, the slaveholders had been forced to go first to Commissioner Edward D. Ingraham in Philadelphia, to swear out a warrant. The delay gave Harrisburg activists the time they needed to spirit the man out of town before he could be located by the slave catchers.

June 14, 1811: Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is born in Litchfield, Connecticut.

June 14, 1866: The Creek Tribe ratifies a treaty with the United States and with the treaty abolishes slavery in its territory, marking the final end of slavery in the continental United States. See also June 19, 1862 "Juneteenth," below.

June 15, 1863: With invading Confederate troops reported in Chambersburg, Department of the Susquehanna commander Major General Darius Couch appeals to Harrisburg's citizens to dig entrenchments on a bluff across the Susquehanna River, in present day Lemoyne. Although his appeal was not explicit regarding race, it was addressed to the citys' white citizenry. By five p.m., hundreds of Harrisburg's white citizens assembled at the Camel Back Bridge, shovels in hand, ready to cross to the West Shore to begin digging. (Click here for a lithograph of Harrisburg's white citizenry working to construct fortifications.)

June 15, 1864: Congress authorizes equal pay and equipment for African American troops.

June 16, 1863: Harrisburg finally realizes it needs to involve its African American residents in its defense. Facing flagging support and effort from his white citizen-laborers, Fortifications Superintendant William T. Hildrup places the following advertisement in the morning edition of the Patriot and Union: "TO THE COLORED MEN OF HARRISBURG. We want men of muscle, and men who are ready and willing to work on our entrenchments.—We have such white men already. But colored men can help in this common cause also, and colored men are needed at this crisis.—Liberal inducements are offered to such of those as assist us, and their pay will $1.25 per day as long as they work. The night laborers will receive the same compensation.—Turn out then men of all classes and colors, if for nothing more, to the assistance of your country, and the capital of the old Keystone State." (More about the building of fortifications above Harrisburg is here.)

June 17, 1863: The triennial convention of the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania began in the Capitol's House of Representatives chamber, for the purpose of nominating a candidate for Governor, and one for Judge of the Supreme Court. Dr. George W. Nebinger, a representative delegate from Philadelphia, was elected to preside over the convention. After some organizing work, the assembled delegates began to work on resolutions pledging fidelity to the Constitution and the Union. Some historians surmise that General Darius Couch's refusal to enlist a company of African American men the day before was to avoid agitating the assembled Democrats.

June 17, 1863: At 9 pm, a company of African American men under the command of Captain William Babe arrived at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot on Market Street in Harrisburg. These were young men from Philadelphia's Institute for Colored Youth, recruited and drilled by Octavius Valentine Catto, a mathematics teacher and administrator at the Institute, to defend the state capital from Confederate attack. Captain Babe reported to Department of the Susquehanna commander General Darius Couch, who refused to muster in the ninety black men and their three white officers, saying he had "no authority" to accept African American troops. The young men returned, demoralized and angry, to the train station, to board the 2 am train back to Philadelphia. (Read a full accounting of this incident here.)

June 18, 1863: Stung by the rejection by Harrisburg military authorities of Philadelphia African American volunteers to defend Harrisburg from attack, fiery abolitionist George Luther Stearns went directly to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Stearns telegraphed "A special dispatch to the Philadelphia North American states that General Couch declined to receive colored troops, alleging that he has no authority to receive such troops for less than three years. Two companies here are ready to go for the emergency. Shall I forward them? Companies from other points can be forwarded. Shall they be sent?" Before noon, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sent two telegraphic replies: one to Couch in Harrisburg and one to Stearns in Philadelphia. To Couch he wired a simple directive: “You are authorized to receive into the service any volunteer troops that may be offered, without regard to color.” To the angry Stearns, Stanton sent a more ambiguous message, telling him that color would no longer be an issue in Harrisburg, but “if there is likely to be any dispute about the matter, it will be better to send no more. It is well to avoid all controversy in the present juncture, as the troops can be well used elsewhere.”

June 19, 1862: Juneteenth, African American Emancipation Day. President Abraham Lincoln signs into law a measure prohibiting slavery in the territories of the United States. This law did not pertain to what were known as the "Indian Territories," in the west as President Lincoln did not recognize United States jurisdiction over those lands under treaty with what were known as the "Civilized Tribes," some of whom had separate treaties with the Confederate States government. It was not until after the Civil War, on June 14, 1866, that the last vestige of slavery was abolished in the continental United States with ratification of a treaty by the Creek Tribe.

June 22, 1863: Harrisburg commander General Darius Couch sends a dispatch to his advance forces in Chambersburg, under Brigadier General Joseph F. Knipe, alerting the commander that “fifty rebel cavalry were stealing horses near Maria Furnace, Caledonia Springs, and Millerstown.” Most of the residents of the nearby settlement of Little Africa, African American workers at Thaddus Stevens' Caledonia Forge, had probably already fled toward Harrisburg.

June 22, 1937: Joe Louis knocks out Jim J. Braddock in the eighth round to win the Heavyweight Champion of the World boxing title.

June 22, 1938: Exactly one year after defeating Braddock, Louis defeats Max Schmeling, the only boxer who had ever bested him, knocking out the poster boy of Nazi Aryan supremacy.

June 23, 1969: Harrisburg experienced its worst modern race riot triggered by an incident during a boycott by local African Americans of a pharmacy at 13th and Market Streets. Police used tear gas to disperse large groups of protesters and made seven arrests.

June 24, 1969: A second day of racial unrest in Harrisburg results in the death by police gunfire of Charles A. Scott. Violence continued with protesters setting fires, and police made three arrests.

June 25, 1863: After a week of relative calm, Harrisburg is again flooded with African American refugees fleeing advancing Confederate forces. In Harrisburg, a jaded correspondent for the New York Herald wrote “Vast numbers of ebony colored children are daily arriving in the city—some destitute, others again more fortunate. Their rendezvous is in a section of the city denominated ‘Smoky Hollow.’ I have not visited it, and therefore can give you no idea of the scenes being enacted there.” Many of the refugees took shelter in Judy's Town, near Third and Mulberry streets, or crossed over the Market Street canal bridge and camped in the open meadows of Allison's Hollow, east of the city.

June 25, 1863 (evening): At a hastily arranged "War Meeting" in the Tanners' Alley Masonic Hall, Harrisburg's African American residents organized a small company of men to volunteer for the defense of Harrisburg and the Commonwealth. It consisted of fifty-four men, captained by local barber and anti-slavery activist Henry Bradley. In contrast to the events of a week earlier, when General Couch refused to enlist the African American troops from Philadlephia, this time there was no such rejection. The first African American troops to be enlisted in the defense of the Pennsylvania state capital were from Harrisburg. (Read more about Henry Bradley's Company of Volunteers here.)

June 26, 1863: A second Harrisburg company of African American men is mustered in, this one captained by Thomas Morris Chester. Although they were issued uniforms and equipment, the state refused to supply muskets or other armaments to the new black troops. Chester's men joined Bradley's men in drill practice in the streets of Harrisburg. Meanwhile, Confederate troops had now reached Gettysburg.

June 27, 1863: Expecting an imminent attack, General Darius Couch orders all school buildings in Harrisburg to be cleared out so that they could be utilized as makeshift military hospitals. African American schoolteacher John Wolf saw his Cherry Street schoolhouse, along with all the other city schoolhouses, taken over by military authorities and outfitted for the expected treatment of wounded and dying soldiers. Couch also ordered that all city churches be prepared for the same fate if the numbers of wounded should require it. With the potential military occupation of Wesley Union and Bethel A.M.E, the city suddenly had no more protected areas for African American refugees.

June 28, 1863: The town of Mechanicsburg surrenders to invading Confederate troops. Town burgess George Hummel is made a prisoner and taken to General Albert G. Jenkins for questioning. Residents are forced to supply the occupying enemy cavalrymen with 1500 rations and ample forage for their horses. About mid-day, an artillery duel develops between Jenkins' artillerists stationed at Peace Church, and the Philadelphia Home Guard Artillery, sitting at Oyster Point. The cannon-fire is easily heard in Harrisburg, where residents believed the battle for Harrisburg was beginning. African American refugees camped along the riverfront moved to safer grounds further inside the city. Military authorities finally relent, and issue weapons to the two companies of African American troops in Harrisburg.

June 28, 1863: A company of African American militia is used in the defense of Wrightsville, York County, against Confederate soldiers advancing to the river intending to cross the bridge into Columbia. Although the meager defense was futile against the seasoned Southern veterans, Union commanders praised the delaying efforts of the African American troops who “stood up to their work bravely,” after working all day to dig the defensive trenches. One of the African American soldiers was killed by a Southern artillery round. (Read a detailed account of the defense of the Wrightsville Bridge here.)

June 29, 1863: Confederate General Albert G. Jenkins reconnoiters through Shiremanstown to Slate Hill and eastward, to a vantage point on Lisburn Road, from where he is able to see and study the defenses of Harrisburg. He sends his report to General Ewell, in Carlisle, who reviews it early that afternoon and subsequently orders General Robert E. Rodes to attack and capture Harrisburg with his division on Tuesday the thirtieth. Just hours later, however, with news of a rapidly advancing Union army, Robert E. Lee would pull his troops back from the gates of Harrisburg, to concentrate in Gettysburg.

June 30, 1863: At 10 am, Union troops push forward from their fortified positions on Hummel Hill and encounter rear-guard troops of Jenkins' Sixteenth Virginia Cavalry near Sporting Hill. A skirmish develops into a full-scale battle, eventually involving support fire from Union and Confederate artillery. The Confederates withdrew toward Carlisle, leaving sixteen dead to be buried in the fields around Sporting Hill.


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)


August 1, 1834: The British Parliament decrees an end to African slavery in the West Indies. This “Emancipation Day” was celebrated in many African American communities in the United States, including Carlisle and Harrisburg, until the mid-1860s.
Read about an 1857 Harrisburg Emancipation Day celebration here.
Read about an 1845 Carlisle Emancipation Day celebration here.

August 2, 1925: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is organized, with A. Philip Randolph elected president.

August 6, 1862: The editor of Harrisburg’s Patriot and Union newspaper was arrested by military authorities on charges that he published an article discouraging enlistments. The article, which was later proved to be a prank, stated that two regiments of African American troops were to be raised in the city, and that rations, pay and bounty would be the same as received by white troops.
A detailed account of that incident may be found here.

August 7, 1847: William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass stop as invited guests in Harrisburg on their trip to Ohio. Garrison stayed with Dr. William W. Rutherford, while Douglass stayed with African American schoolteacher John Wolf. Their evening lecture at the Courthouse was violently disrupted by anti-abolition rowdies. Garrison was hit by rotten eggs and Douglass was hit by stones and bricks.
A detailed account of Douglass and Garrison's Harrisburg experiences may be found here.

August 8, 1847: William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass lectured twice at the Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion church, in Tanners’ Alley. They spoke in the late morning and in the afternoon, to a crowded audience that was mostly African American, although in a letter written several days later from Pittsburgh, Garrison recalled that “a number of white [friends] were also present.”
Read about their appearance at Wesley Union A.M.E Church here.

August 11, 1850: Charles Lenox Remond lectures in Harrisburg. He and his sister, Sarah Parker Remond, were the first traveling African American lecturers with the American Antislavery Society.
Many anti-slavery lecturers passed through central Pennsylvania. Read about some of them here.

August 11, 1965: A routine traffic stop near the Los Angeles community of Watts escalates into six days of violence as the local African American community vents its rage against decades of mistreatment by police and government authorities.
An excellent historical summary of the Watts Rebellion is at

August 12, 1868: Death of Thaddeus Stevens, staunch advocate of free public education, African American civil rights, and proponent of radical reconstruction in the South.
Thaddeus Stevens' anti-slavery views were strongly influenced by Jonathan Blanchard. Read about their friendship here.

August 15, 1840: Birth of Harriet McClintock Marshall, legendary Harrisburg Underground Railroad worker. She married escaped slave Elisha Marshall in Wesley Union church in June 1864.
Harriet McClintock Marshall on the UGRR Whos Who
Marker in Lincoln Cemetery honoring the USCT, placed by members of the Marshall and McClintock families

August 15, 1852: Fourteen freedom seekers from Washington County, Maryland enter Harrisburg, most likely forwarded by Underground Railroad agents in Chambersburg. Most of the group were reported to have escaped from a Mrs. Pendleton in Maryland. Although pursued by Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister's men, most of this group of freedom seekers remained at large in Harrisburg.
News article about a mass escape of enslaved persons from Washington County, Maryland.
Source: Sunbury (Pennsylvania) American, 28 August, 1852, p.2.

August 16, 1834: On a Saturday night, a campaign of violence and vandalism against the homes of African American residents in Columbia, Lancaster County, began. It would culminate with a full-scale riot by a white mob in the town's African American neighborhood four days later.
News articles about these incidents may be found here.

August 16, 1838: American Anti-slavery Society agent Daniel Alexander Payne undertakes a speaking circuit through Pennsylvania, beginning in Philadelphia, where he meets with James Forten, Charles W. Gardiner, and Robert Purvis, among others.
Read more about the "anti-slavery pilgrims" that visited central Pennsylvania.

August 17, 1855: In response to T. Morris Chester's advocation of African Colonization in Liberia, William Nesbit of Altoona, who had recently visited the colony and found it undesirable, challenged Chester to debate the subject at Wesley Union Church. Chester declined to appear, so Nesbit delivered a speech against African Colonization to the assembled African American residents and visitors from nearby towns.
Details about this event may be found here.

August 19, 1834: After nightfall on Tuesday evening, August 19, 1834, a mob of about fifty white boys and men rioted in Columbia's African American neighborhood, terrifying the residents by stoning their houses, breaking windows, and firing guns. The demonstration lasted until 1 a.m.
News articles about this event may be found here.

August 20, 1859: John Brown meets Frederick Douglass in an abandoned stone quarry in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in a last attempt to convince Douglass to join his raid on Harpers Ferry. Douglass, believing the plan would hinder the cause of abolition, declines to be included.
Read a detailed description of John Brown's Chambersburg operations here.

August 21, 1619: Twenty African slaves are brought to the settlement of Jamestown in the colony of Virginia, marking the beginning of slavery in British North America.

August 21, 1829: Wesley Church is founded in Harrisburg. Organized by a group of local African American residents, it began holding services in a small log building at Third and Mulberry Streets, in the Judystown neighborhood. Its first pastor was Rev. David Stevens.
The story of the founding of Wesley Union Church in Harrisburg may be found here.

August 22, 1831: Nat Turner begins his rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner’s group killed 55 whites before being scattered by militia. In the violent aftermath, more than 200 slaves and free Blacks would be killed in retribution.

August 22, 1848: Oliver C. Kelly and fourteen other men who had escaped enslavement in Howard County, Maryland by fleeing from a Camp Meeting arrived at sunset in "Little York" after two harrowing days of travel. Here, they were greeted by William Goodridge, who put them on the road to Columbia, from where they walked to Lancaster the next day, and were directed by Thaddeus Stevens to the farm of Daniel and Hannah Gibbons. Oliver Kelly adopted the surname Gilbert, and his reminiscences are one of the best primary sources of the workings of the Underground Railroad.
Read the full story here.

August 23, 1845: In Lancaster, William Dorsey is remanded south to slavery by Judge Lewis. Dorsey had for several years been a employee at one of the iron furnaces owned by Clement B. Grubb, and had married in Lancaster County. Upon hearing of the court's ruling, Clement Grubb purchased Dorsey's freedom for $600.
A short biography of Clement Brooke Grubb is found here.

August 24, 1850: Harrisburg experiences its most significant fugitive slave related violence as a large crowd of local African American residents threatens some Virginia slave catchers who were attempting to subdue resistant fugitives in an anteroom of the county prison. Harrisburg resident Joseph Pople attacked the Virginians, allowing one of the fugitives to escape with the help of the crowd. Judge John J. Pearson ordered the immediate arrest of the slave catchers and the two remaining slaves and issued warrants for the arrest of nine local Blacks on charges of creating a riot.
Read a detailed account of this landmark resistance here.

August 26, 1847: Trial begins in Carlisle of Dickinson College professor John McClintock and thirty-four local African American citizens on charges of rioting, rescuing two slaves who were lawfully within the possession of their owner, and assault and battery on slaveholder John Kennedy, who died from his injuries, and bystander John Black. McClintock and twenty-one of the defendants were acquitted of all charges. Eleven of those found guilty served nine months in Eastern Penitentiary in solitary confinement before their sentence was reversed by the state Supreme Court.
The Carlisle McClintock Slave Rescue is told in detail here.

August 27, 1839: The slave ship Amistad is discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard brig off the coast of Long Island. Two surviving crewmembers told of the mutiny by slaves to secure their freedom. It took a U.S. Supreme Court decision to finally return the Africans home to their Mende tribal lands late in 1841.

August 29, 1835: A colonization meeting, billed as an “anti-abolition” meeting, is held in the Dauphin County Courthouse. The meeting is attended by Charles C. Rawn, who agrees to draft an address of the Harrisburg Colonization Society’s aims.

August 29, 1963: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Washington Memorial during the “March on Washington” civil rights demonstration.
Visit the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Capital Area Greenbelt.

August 30, 1839: The Amistad is towed into New London, Connecticut and its 53 African revolutionists are imprisoned, pending trial for murder and piracy. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Africans. They were finally put on a ship and returned to thier homeland in Africa.

August 31, 1854: Harrisburg abolitionists welcome William James Watkins, Associate Editor of The Frederick Douglass Paper, cousin of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and eloquent African American speaker, to town.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper is one of four prominent Black leaders represented on the Commonwealth Monument Project memorial "A Gathering at the Crossroads," here.


September 1, 1780: The first Harrisburg area slave holder to register slaves according the 1780 Gradual Abolition Act is Elizabeth Carson, who registered her “Negro Male,” Pompey, aged fourteen years, as a “slave for life.”
The listing of Pompey by Elizabeth Carson is here.

September 1, 1780: Colonel Tye (Titus Cornelius), leader of the Loyalist Guerrilla unit known as the Black Brigade, is wounded in the attack at Colt's Neck, New Jersey. The wound became infected and he died a few days later.

September 1, 1835: A follow-up meeting of Harrisburg anti-abolition supporters is held in a market shed on the square, after being barred from meeting in the county courthouse. Impassioned speeches are delivered by J. J. Clendenin, publisher Henry K. Strong, and attorney Charles C. Rawn.

September 2, 1914: Artist Romare Bearden is born in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Visit the Romare Bearden Foundation at

September 3, 1838: With the help of local free Black woman Anna Murray, Frederick Douglass, an enslaved man in Maryland, escapes from slavery in Fells Point, Baltimore. Douglass would become a tireless lifelong campaigner for African American social, political, and legal rights.
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site may be visited here.

September 4, 1838: American Anti-slavery Society agent Daniel Alexander Payne visits with William C. Goodridge in York, as part of his lecturing circuit of Pennsylvania. During his trip, he met with anti-slavery leaders in each location and distributed literature.
See the listing for William Goodridge in the Underground Railroad Whos Who.
Read more about Daniel Payne's travels and anti-slavery agitation here.

September 11, 1851: Slaveholder Edward Gorsuch is killed while attempting to recover runaways who had taken shelter with William Parker in Christiana, Pennsylvania. The “Christiana Resistance” marks the first organized armed resistance by free African Americans against slave catchers in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law.
A detailed account of the Christiana Resistance may be found here.

September 15, 1830: Annual Negro Conventions begin in Philadelphia. Meeting in Bethel Church, delegates began the annual events that would coordinate African American resistance to slavery and anti-Black legislation.

September 18, 1850: President Millard Fillmore signs the Fugitive Slave Act into law.
Read about the chilling effect the new Fugitive Slave Law had on Harrisburg's Underground Railroad network.

September 18, 1895: Booker T. Washington delivers his Atlanta Compromise speech at the Cotton States and International Exhibition in that city (“Cast Down Your Buckets Where You Are.”)
A transcript of Washington's landmark speech and an audio clip of his voice are accessible online from the Library of Congress.
September 21, 2002: A new tombstone, with corrected date of birth, is dedicated at Lincoln Cemetery in Harrisburg, for Thomas Morris Chester. (photos of event here)

September 22, 1862: President Lincoln declares that all slaves in states in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, would be free.

September 24, 1862: Fourteen governors of Northern states meet in Altoona, Pennsylvania and approve the emancipation measures of President Lincoln.
A scholarly article detailing the War Governor's Conference at Altoona may be accessed here.

September 25, 1838: AAS agent Daniel Alexander Payne arrives in Carlisle, where he stays with William Webb and visits barber and anti-slavery activist John Peck.
Read about John Peck in the Underground Railroad Who's Who

September 25, 1851: Harrisburg is panicked as four African American strangers passing through town are rumored to be murderous rioters from Christiana. With the help of local men from Matamoras, the four are arrested and taken back to Harrisburg. There, District Judge John J. Pearson dismisses charges for lack of evidence against the four men accused of having participated in the Christiana Rebellion. To Judge Pearson's dismay, Federal Fugitive Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister immediately seizes the men in the courtroom and remands them south as fugitive slaves, after a short hearing.
Read more about this incident.

September 28, 1785: David Walker is born in Wilmington, North Carolina. His “Appeal in Four Articles, together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World,” published in September 1829, outraged slaveholders because it called for violent resistance to their captivity by slaves.
The complete text of Walker's Appeal plus an image of the original title page is here.

September 30, 1850: Harrisburg lawyer Richard McAllister is appointed by United States Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to the post of U.S. Commissioner to hear cases under the new Fugitive Slave Act. With distinct pro-slaveholder sympathies, McAllister employs several Harrisburg constables as deputies to actively and energetically pursue fugitive slaves throughout central Pennsylvania.
A fairly comprehensive account of McAllister's activities as Slave Commissioner is here.


October 1, 1851: The “Jerry Rescue” takes place in New York. William Henry, known as “Jerry,” had escaped slavery and was working in New York when he was arrested under the new Fugitive Slave Law. He was successfully rescued by a crowd of abolitionists and African Americans, and became a symbol of defiance against the new and hated law.

October 1, 1857: The “Colored People’s Burying Ground” in Harrisburg at Meadow Lane and Chestnut Streets is sold at public auction, the last parcel of the old city burial grounds to be sold for development. Remains were reinterred in the Harris Free Cemetery and possibly later moved to Lincoln Cemetery in Penbrook.
Click here for an Afrolumens-produced map of the original burial grounds location just before it was sold. Drawn from an original document in the Pennsylvania State Archives.

October 2, 1800: Nat Turner is born in Southampton County, Virginia.

October 2, 1851: During the night of Thursday, October 2, John Dunmore is arrested in Harrisburg, taken before Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister and accused of being a runaway slave. The hearing was conducted behind closed doors and shuttered windows in McAllister's office. However the person who was seeking his return testified that Dunmore was not his slave, and Dunmore was released.

October 3, 1863: The War Department orders the enlistment of African American troops in the slave states of Maryland, Missouri and Tennessee.

October 8, 1831: William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator publishes the eloquent resolutions by many in Harrisburg’s African American community strongly opposing the aims of the American Colonization Society. The resolution accuses the Colonization Society of seeking to “drain the country of the most enlightened part of our colored brethren, so that they may be more able to hold their slaves in bondage and ignorance.”
Read the resolutions here.
October 10, 1862: Confederate President Jefferson Davis asks Virginia for a draft to supply 4500 Blacks to work on completing fortifications around Richmond.

October 10, 1871: Equal rights activist and educator Octavius V. Catto is shot to death on Election Day in Philadelphia as he worked to protect African Americans at the polls.
Read about the life and work of Octavius V. Catto here.

October 11, 1722: Pennsylvania Colonial Governor William Keith sends a letter to local Native American tribes appealing for their help in returning fugitive slaves, promising “one Good Gun and two Blankets for each Negro,” returned to provincial authorities.
A detailed discussion of this time period and offer may be found here.

October 12, 1866: Chosen Friends Lodge No. 43, an African American Masonic Lodge, is warranted in Harrisburg.

October 13, 1864: Maryland voters narrowly adopt a new state constitution that abolishes slavery.

October 13, 2004: The Riverside School in Harrisburg is renamed the T. Morris Chester School to honor the city native who became a famous attorney, war correspondent, civil rights activist and political tactician in Reconstruction-era Louisiana.
Click for a photo taken at this event (photo courtesy of Calobe Jackson, Jr.)

October 16, 1849:
Clergyman Charles Avery gives money to found a college to train young African Americans for teaching and the ministry. Avery Institute was established at Allegheny, Pennsylvania and received its first students in April 1850.

October 16, 1859: In the last few hours of the day, John Brown begins his raid of the U.S. Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
A fascinating analysis and discussion of John Brown's plans may be found here.

October 16, 1995: The Million Man March attracts one of the largest crowds in history to the National Mall in Washington, DC to hear eighty speakers advocate increased community involvement and political activism by African American males. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan organized the event, which drew an estimated 837,000 participants.

October 18, 1847: George Cole, a free African American of Chambersburg, leads thirteen fugitive slaves through Shippensburg and Huntsdale to the barn of Daniel Kaufman near Boiling Springs. Kaufman helped the slaves get through to Harrisburg, but his actions were detected and he was successfully sued in federal court by the slaveowners.
Read the incredible story of the Daniel Kaufman case here.

October 19, 1825: William Howard Day is born in New York.
William Howard Day is buried in Lincoln Cemetery, Penbrook. A photo of his gravesite is here.

October 24, 1834: Slave catchers kidnap the wife and four children of James Williams, an African American worker in Portsmouth, Dauphin County. Williams and local citizens track the kidnappers through York, Pennsylvania, where Williams is reunited with his wife, who had managed to escape. The next day a posse of citizens from York rescues the children. The kidnappers are tried, convicted and imprisoned in Harrisburg.
A full account of this early local kidnapping incident may be found here.

October 25, 1836: American Anti-slavery Society lecturer Jonathan Blanchard arrives in Harrisburg for about two weeks of lectures. He stays with the Alexander Graydon family, on Market Street.
More about the Alexander Graydon family here.

October 30, 1836: Abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard delivers a sermon at the Harrisburg Presbyterian Church, triggering a number of longtime church members to walk out in protest against his anti-slavery politics.
Read an eye-witness account of this incident here.

October 31, 1780: Deadline for slave holders in Pennsylvania to register their slaves with the county clerk, according to the newly passed Gradual Abolition Law. The penalty for failure to register their slaves on time was immediate emancipation of those enslaved.


November 1, 1910: A new publication, The Crisis, edited by W.E.B. DuBois, makes its appearance.

November 2, 1836: American Anti-slavery Society lecturer Jonathan Blanchard lectures in the town of Dauphin.

November 3, 1836: American Anti-slavery Society lecturer Jonathan Blanchard lectures in the town of Halifax.

November 4. 1836: American Anti-slavery Society lecturer Jonathan Blanchard lectures in the town of Millersburg.

November 4. 2008: Barack Obama is elected as the 44th President of the United States and the first African American to hold the office.

November 5, 1968: Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African American woman elected to Congress.

November 6, 1860: Abraham Lincoln is elected sixteenth president of the United States.

November 7, 1775: Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, issues a proclamation promising freedom to slaves who would run away from rebel owners to fight for the British army. Several thousand would do so, including some from the Harrisburg area.
A detailed discussion of Lord Dunmore's Proclamation may be found here.

November 7, 1837: Elijah Lovejoy is murdered at Alton, Illinois and becomes a martyr for abolitionists.

November 8, 1775: Titus, a man enslaved by John Corlies of Monmouth County, New Jersey, escapes to start his own guerilla fight against local plantations in the name of the British. Known as Colonel Tye, he led a mixed race band of fighters, based in the cedar swamps of New Jersey, against Continental forces from July 1779 until his death from wounds in September 1780.
Read more about Colonel Tye here.

November 8, 1938: Crystal Bird Fauset is elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, becoming the first African American woman to serve in a state house of representatives.

November 10, 1983:
Wilson Goode is elected as the first African American mayor of Philadelphia.

November 11, 1836: American Anti-slavery Society lecturer Jonathan Blanchard speaks at Harrisburg’s Masonic Hall. The lecture is attended by local attorney Charles C. Rawn, who begins to reconsider his anti-abolitionist views.

November 14, 1849: Martin R. Delany arrives in Harrisburg to deliver lectures over the next five days. He stayed with John F. and Hannah Williams after discovering that no local hotel would rent a room to a black man.

November 14, 1865: Harrisburg welcomes the United States Colored Troops home, hosting a large parade, reception and public dinner. This Grand Review of Colored Troops featured speeches by William Howard Day, Simon Cameron, J. C. White and Octavius Catto. T. Morris Chester was Master of Ceremonies.
Modern Harrisburg commemorated this event in 2010. View photos of the event here.
November 16, 1877: Lincoln Cemetery in Harrisburg is dedicated as the burial ground for Wesley Union A.M.E. Church. Burials from the old cemetery, located at Boas and Rose Streets, began the following week.
Learn more about Harrisburg's Lincoln Cemetery here.

November 17, 1846: Trial in Gettysburg of infamous slave catcher and kidnapper Thomas Finnegan results in his conviction for kidnapping. He is sentenced to five year in Eastern Penitentiary, but is pardoned in June 1848 by Governor Francis R. Shunk due to failing health.

November 23, 1803: Abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld is born in Hampton, Connecticut.


December 1, 1861: Secretary of War Simon Cameron proposes in his Annual Report that captured slaves be immediately emancipated and armed to fight in the war. Lincoln rejected the proposal, but Cameron released the report to the newspapers anyway, resulting in his reassignment as Minister to Russia.

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks is arrested and fined after she refuses to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, setting off protests and a boycott, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Supreme Court eventually ended segregation on city buses.

December 2, 1859: John Brown is hanged at 11:30 a.m. at Charles Town, Virginia. He left a written statement, which said “I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land, will never by purged away, but with Blood. I had as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done.”
Harrisburg has many connections to John Brown and his famous raid on Harpers Ferry. Read more here.

December 3, 1836: Anti-slavery men in Gettysburg form the Adams County Antislavery Society at Clarkson’s Academy, after being driven from the county courthouse by anti-abolition rowdies.

December 3, 1844: Underground Railroad activist Charles T. Torrey is convicted of aiding fugitive slaves escape from Maryland into Pennsylvania. He was sentenced to six years in the Maryland Penitentiary, where he died in May 1846 of tuberculosis.

December 3, 1900: William Howard Day dies in Harrisburg. Many African American notables, including W.E.B. DuBois, attend his funeral.
William Howard Day is buried in Lincoln Cemetery. Click here for more on this historic African American Cemetery.

December 4, 1833: Black and white delegates gather in Philadelphia’s Adelphi Building to discuss forming a national anti-slavery society. James Miller McKim attends to represent the greater Harrisburg area. The resulting American Anti-Slavery Society would send speakers throughout Pennsylvania, resulting in a blossoming of small, local anti-slavery societies.

December 7, 1833: The American Antislavery Society is officially formed, in Philadelphia.

December 9, 1828: Facing financial hardship, Archibald McAllister of Fort Hunter advertises, “I wish to dispose of all my colored people at private sale.” Included is Sally Craig, a slave for life, sixty-one years old.
Click here for a full list of all the persons enslaved by Archibald McAllister at Fort Hunter.

December 11, 1836: American Anti-slavery Society lecturer Jonathan Blanchard preaches during evening services at Harrisburg Presbyterian Church. Among those in attendance is attorney Charles C. Rawn.

December 11, 1851: The jury in the Christiana Treason trial takes only fifteen minutes to return a verdict of “Not Guilty” on charges of treason for Castner Hanway in the violence at the William Parker house. The verdict outrages Southern slaveholders and politicians.
Read the exciting full story of the Christiana Rebellion here.

December 13, 1836: Attorney Charles C. Rawn welcomes Reverend William Radcliff DeWitt to his home to discuss slavery and abolition. Rawn expresses his opinion that slavery should be abolished in Washington DC, and that abolition aught to be openly and publicly debated.

December 13, 1848: Pennsylvania State Convention of Coloured Citizens meets in Harrisburg to devise a plan to petition the state legislature to restore the vote to African American men.

December 16, 1859: Two African American men who were captured with John Brown during his raid on Harpers Ferry, Shields Green and John Copeland, are hanged at Charlestown for their role in the plot. They were buried beneath the gallows and soon thereafter disinterred by local medical students for dissection.

December 17, 1748: John Harris the settler dies. His will stipulates that his enslaved man Hercules be set free, and “be allowed to live on a part of the tract purchased of James Allcorn left to my son William,” marking the beginning of a free Black community in Harrisburg.

December 18, 1828: Sally Craig, longtime enslaved woman of Archibald McAllister at Fort Hunter, escapes after being put up for sale at age sixty-one. She is never recovered.

December 18, 1863: The 13th Amendment to the Constitution is declared in effect by Secretary of State Seward after it is ratified by twenty-seven states.

December 19, 1875: Carter G. Woodson, the “father of African American history,” is born in New Canton, Virginia.

December 20, 1860: South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the Union.

December 24, 1829: The Pennsylvania General Assembly votes to support the goals of the American Colonization Society in sending free African Americans to Liberia. It passes a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to do the same, arguing that the removal of free Blacks from the United States would be “highly auspicious to the best interests of our country.”

December 25, 1839: Benjamin Tucker Tanner, African American minister and A.M.E. bishop, is born in Pittsburgh. Tanner studied at Avery Institute, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, was a writer, poet and editor of the Christian Recorder newspaper, and received a D.D. from Wilberforce University in 1878.

December 31, 1777: The ban on recruitment of African American soldiers in the Continental Army is lifted by General George Washington, clearing the way for the service of more than 5,000 African American men on the colonial side during the Revolutionary war.

December 31, 1782: Final day for residents of disputed territory in western Pennsylvania to register their slaves according to law. The deadline was extended in this area, which had been claimed by Virginia, because Pennsylvania did not ratify the border until September 23, 1780.

December 31, 1851: Sixteen-year-old Rachel Parker is kidnapped by Thomas McCreary from the Chester County farm of Joseph and Rebecca Miller. Joseph Miller and some neighbors track the kidnapped girl to a Baltimore slave prison and alert authorities, then prepare to take the train home. Miller, however, would be waylaid and murdered in Baltimore.
Read a detailed article about this incident, which helped sway local opinion against the Fugitive Slave Act.

Covering the history of African Americans in central Pennsylvania from the colonial era through the Civil War.

The Year of Jubilee is no longer in print, but used copies can be found. You may also read the book directly from this site. Just click the book image and start reading.

The Year of Jubilee, Volume One: Men of God, Volume Two: Men of Muscle



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