Celebrate Black History Month by reading and exploring how the Black members of our communities have shaped our story. We’ve highlighted a few local and regional events below, as well as resources for self-directed learning to explore this aspect of American history.
Events Around the County
February 5 at 2:30pm at the York History Center. The History Center will be presenting a program on the unique challenges that African American genealogical researchers face as they do their work. Available in person or on Zoom; visit the History Center website for details.
February 7 at 7:00pm at the Hanover YWCA. Deb Smith will be presenting “Marching Down Freedom’s Road,” which documents a road trip with Classrooms Without Borders, spanning from Atlanta to Memphis. Visit the YWCA Hanover website for more.
On February 10, the Collinsville Library’s book club discusses “American Sirens,” a new nonfiction book about the first paramedic crew in the U.S. This was a group of essential workers, all Black Americans, who were living in Pittsburgh in the 1960s. Read about how they overcame resistance from all corners to create the first paramedic corps in the United States. Check the book out here.
February 11 at 10:30am at the York History Center in York, PA. Join the York History Center for their Second Saturday lecture, led by York College history professor Dr. Peter Levy. He will discuss York’s race riots in the 1960s and the causes of the unrest. Free to the public; learn more on the History Center website here.
On February 17 from 7:00pm to 10:00pm at Heidelberg United Church of Christ in York. The church is hosting a Black History Month Cultural Showcase. Spoken word artists Maria James-Thiaw, G Mill and Tiger Rose, and others will perform. A donation of $10 is suggested at the door.
For Black History Month events around the region, check out PennLive’s summary of events in Harrisburg, Lancaster, and elsewhere! It includes spoken-word artists, music, theatre, film, concerts, and more. Read the post here.
Places to Visit
This is a great month to visit the historical Lebanon Cemetery in North York. Historically a Black burial ground, this scared space has been given new life by a dedicated group of volunteers. They are doing wonderful work to restore dignity and history to local Black families’ loved ones. Here’s a 2022 article from the dispatch on their work: Lebanon Cemetery celebrating 150-year anniversary with community events (yorkdispatch.com.
(No time to visit? Check out local history podcast Hometown History’s episodes on the Lebanon Cemetery here.)
While you’re in York, visit the Goodridge Freedom Center and Underground Railroad Museum on Philadelphia Street in York (just around the corner from Martin Library!). Open hours and appointments to visit can be found on their website: Goodridge Freedom Center – Crispus Attucks.
Local History Books
Local history blog York Town Square is run by Jim McClure. The site has a whole series of articles that take a closer look at Black history throughout York County. Explore the many articles in this online collection here.
Of course York County Libraries has great books available for you to dive into (see more below)! Almost Forgotten by Jim McClure excerpts articles from the York Daily Record that center on Black history and the Black experience, going back to the 1780s to 2000 and onward.
Guiding Lights: Underground Railroad Conductors in York County PA by Scott Mingus unearths the people, places, and rumors that helped enslaved people escape to freedom.
It’s a companion book to Mingus’ The Ground Swallowed Them Up: Slavery and the Underground Railroad in York County, PA which examines York County as one of many places along the Mason-Dixon line which represented at least the hope of freedom to enslaved people, and the locals who had to decide whether to help the slavers or the enslaved.
African-Americans in Pennsylvania: a History and Guide by Charles L. Blockson offers a close biographic look at the experience and the achievements of Black Pennsylvanians in short, easy-to-consume segments. The book starts with an unflinching acknowledgement that “it [is] difficult to research Black presence in [early] Pennsylvania, because Blacks came to these shores as property,” but the book still ably provides a celebration of the achievements and struggles of Pennsylvanians in a variety of fields, from politics to spirituality to industry and more, all grouped by geographic region.
There is a followup illustrated version (African-Americans in Pennsylvania: Above Ground and Underground, an Illustrated Guide) of this book dating from 2001 which is available for perusal in Guthrie Library’s Pennsylvania Room. Contact Guthrie Library for an appointment to access the Pennsylvania Room collection.
American History, by Era
- Revolutionary War: African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals by David Hackett Fisher;
- 1850s-1920s: All That She Carried : the Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles;
- 1890s: The World’s Fastest Man: the Extraordinary Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America’s first Black Sports Hero by Michael Kranish;
- First World War: All Blood Runs Red: the Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard—Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy by Phil Keith & Tom Clavin;
- 1920s: Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert;
- Second World War: Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman and POW by Alexander Jefferson;
- 1950s-60s: Hidden Figures: the American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly;
- and so much more in our online catalog, because of course the above are only a sampling of what’s on offer!
The Smithsonian Instutition’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is not too far away in Washington, D.C., but you can dive into African American history online here: https://nmaahc.si.edu/
Or check out the Black Freedom Struggle Database, available for free to York County Libraries cardholders! This unique database provides thousands of primary accounts from Black Americans across different eras of American history. Read the words of how they experienced different times in U.S. history in this collection.
The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office has a blog post highlighting African American history over the past 400 years. Explore their post here: https://pahistoricpreservation.com/400-years-african-american-history/