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Story Ideas: Black History Month 2018

Published: Jan 18, 2018

Regional Round-Up of Events, Attractions, and Exhibits honoring Black History Month 2018 in PA's Hershey & Harrisburg Region.

The African American Oral History Project: Part One

The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg presents a one-hour online video entitled The African American Oral History Project: Part One featuring the voices of African Americans from the American Civil War through Reconstruction, to modern times.

4th USCT at Camp Lincoln

Photo: 4th USCT at Camp Lincoln in Worcester, MA.
Image courtesy of NationalCivilWarMuseum.org

One of the personal stories is of Robert Smalls, a former slave who went on to serve as a United States Congressman from South Carolina.

The film also spotlights the personal struggles and triumphs of many others in the African American community located in south central Pennsylvania.

Dream But Don't Sleep - A performance of music, movement, and spoken word presented by Dauphin County

Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 at 7pm
Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church
212 N. Progress Avenue, Harrisburg, PA
Admission: FREE

Dauphin County Commissioners and the County Department of Parks & Recreation invite the public to an evening of music, movement, and spoken word entitled “Dream But Don’t Sleep" at the Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

“We’re delighted to welcome Millicent Sparks Productions back to share this living history performance in celebration of Black History Month," said Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste.

Dream But Don't Sleep Event

Sponsored by Highmark Blue Shield and Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.

The theme of this year's program represents the timeless message of Dr. Martin Luther King, who spoke about hope and equality. 

The title of this performance production "Dream But Don't Sleep" may best be explained in the words of artist Samuel Renaissance's description of his interpretative painting of the same name, which features a mug shot of Dr. Martin Luther King wearing sunglasses, set against a brilliant cityscape.

The artist explained the visual concept as a modern twist on black Americans achieving “The Dream” within a world that is highly influenced by urban black culture, and the title reminds us there is still much work to be done in order to achieve real equality.

County officials said the program will also be presented for an audience of local students which they hope will be inspired to break down cultural barriers and empower them all to dream big.

Millicent Sparks Productions, Inc., which produces a variety of living history programs with an emphasis on the African American experience, says the performances have a unique capacity to open windows into the past and enable audiences to better reconstruct and interpret history.

Call 717-599-5188 for more information on this performance or connect with Dauphin County Parks and Recreation on Facebook or Twitter.

The Mountaintop - presented by L.A. Theatre Works

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 at 7:30pm
Rose Lehrman Art Center
Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC)
One HACC Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17110
More Information & Tickets
For Mature Audiences ONLY

The Mountaintop is a fictional story by American playwright Katori Hall which depicts the night before Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the second-floor balcony outside Room 306 of The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.

L.A. Theatre Works "The Mountaintop" at HACC

L.A. Theatre Works marks the 50th Anniversary of MLK's death with this Olivier-Award Winning Play that addresses race, politics, life, death, and the humanity of the civil rights leader with both humor and intensity.

The audience is witness to an exhausted Dr. King retiring to his motel room after delivering one of his most memorable speeches now known as "I've Been to the Mountaintop" at the Mason Temple in Memphis.

As a storm rages outside, a mysterious young woman named Camae delivers room service and Dr. King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy to his people.

Special Event: A post-show talk back featuring the cast will take place immediately after the show followed by a reception hosted by the HACC Office of Inclusion and Diversity.

Diversity Forum: "The Great Civil Rights Movement: How far have we truly come?"

Presented by Community Members, HACC, and Temple University.

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 from 8-10am
HACC Midtown 2
3rd Street & Reilly, Harrisburg, PA
Register Now

During the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and other minority groups engaged in local, state and national demonstrations in an effort to gain the rights that should have been afforded to them as American citizens.

While the advances in civil rights for all minority groups have been expanded, there is still a long way to go to ensure equal access and opportunity for all.

Three panelists will speak to a variety of issues that impact American minorities, and share their past experiences, and their individual perspectives on how far we have really come since the 1960's.


  • DeShawn Lewis - Director, Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Tina Nixon - Vice President, Mission Effectiveness & Chief Diversity Officer, UPMC Pinnacle
  • Victoria Sanders- Assistant Vice Chancellor & Title IX Coordinator, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)

For more information on this event contact Sue Bensinger at SBensinger@YWCAhbg.org or call 717-234-7931. 

YWCA Harrisburg Logo

Exhibit: Pioneers in African American Auto History

February 1 thru April 29, 2018
Antique Auto Museum in Hershey (AACA)
161 Museum Drive, Hershey, PA 17033

NOTE: The museum will be temporarily closed for maintenance from Feb. 20 thru Mar. 2, 2018.

The AACA Museum in Hershey presents a history of the African American pioneers who have contributed to the advancement of the automobile industry.

These men and women laid the foundation for others to pursue careers in such fields as franchised car dealers, designers, custom car builders, race car drivers, and manufacturers.

AACA Museum Pioneers in African American Auto History

The Pioneers in African American Auto History exhibit begins with the struggles of African-Americans following the end of slavery and their desire to have their ideas and inventions recognized as equals.

Visitors will learn about the only recorded African-American car manufacturer, C.R. Patterson of Ohio and W.H. Phelps, who patented an apparatus for washing over-sized vehicles, along with other esteemed names. 

Visitors can also get hands-on and assemble their own traffic signal representing the one patented in 1923 by Garrett Morgan, an African American inventor and publisher.

Morgan was the first black man in Cleveland to own a car, which led to him developing a friction drive clutch and his innovative traffic signal design which introduced a third light warning drivers in advance of the signal turning red. That original design for a 3-way traffic signal is the standard red, yellow, green used today.

The Burg: February Issue 2018

Read the February 2018 issue of the award-winning community magazine TheBurg for a local perspective on the people, places, and the issues related to Black History Month. 

Featured in this issue:

TheBurg Cover - Feb 2018

Cover image features a new mural at The Jackson House Hotel celebrating the history of the former hotel property and Harrisburg's African American icons.

TheBurg was recognized in 2015 as A Friend of Tourism by the Visit Hershey & Harrisburg organization for exceptional coverage on the local travel & tourism industry. The magazine has also received numerous Keystone Press Awards for Excellence In Journalism and it earned the prestigious Sweepstakes Award from the PA NewsMedia Association in 2016 & 2017.

The Jackson House Hotel Mural

Pictured above on the cover of TheBurg (Feb. 2018 Issue)

This new mural was unveiled in September 2017 during the inaugural Harrisburg Mural Festival, produced by Sprocket Mural Works.

The public art project, featuring iconic African Americans associated with The Jackson House Hotel throughout its history, was designed by muralist Cesar Viveros.

During the era of segregation, The Jackson House Hotel was one of only a few options in the area that provided lodging for African Americans.

The small rooming house offered 5 or 6 rooms for rent and featured elaborate woodwork, gaslight fixtures, and glass pocket doors inlaid with red glass. 

The original owner and operator German Jackson was the son of a slave who would become one of the city’s most prosperous black businessmen.

Jackson is a predominant figure in the foreground of the mural along with famous entertainers Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cab Calloway

The mural also includes Harrisburg natives such as highly decorated U.S. Colored Troop Civil War Veteran Ephraim Slaughter; and Harriet "Ma" McClintock Marshall who was instrumental in the efforts of the local Underground Railroad along with her husband Elisha Marshall who was a runaway slave. 

Today, the building near the Capitol Complex along North Sixth Street no longer serves as a hotel, but it continues to serve as the place for the "Best Burgers In Harrisburg" according to locals.

Lincoln Cemetery & William Howard Day Cemetery

The Lincoln Cemetery was founded by the Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church in 1817 as an African-American burial ground in the Harrisburg area.

The land was purchased a year after the congregation was established and it was officially named Lincoln Cemetery in 1827. 

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the congregation at Wesley Union was active in the Underground Railroad, which cut through the area.

Many Civil War veterans are buried in Lincoln Cemetery, including Harrisburg’s last surviving veteran Ephraim Slaughter who died in 1943 after serving in both the 37th regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops and the 3rd N.C. Colored Infantry.

Lincoln Cemetery is also the burial ground for several notable members of the Harrisburg community including African-American war correspondent T. Morris Chester; abolitionist, educator, and newspaper publisher William Howard Day; and Harriett "Ma" McClintock Marshall who assisted with the care and education of the escaped slaves traveling on the Underground Railroad Stop located in the old Wesley Church, which was also a school for black children at the time. 

Following William Howard Day's death on December 3, 1900, at the age of 75, the William Howard Day Cemetery was established in nearby Steelton as a burial place for all people, including people of color who were denied burial at the nearby Baldwin Cemetery. It remains a popular burial site for local African American families.

Historical Markers

C. Delores Tucker  (1927—2005)

C. Delores Tucker was a civil rights leader and activist for women, and the first African American Secretary of State in the nation. Championed the PA Equal Rights Amendment and policies on affirmative action, voter registration by mail, and lowering the voting age to 18. Spearheaded the creation of the Commission on the Status of Women & led a successful crusade critical of the music industry and lyrics demeaning to women, African Americans, and children. The roadside historical marker dedicated in 2006 is located at North Street in Harrisburg between 3rd & Commonwealth.

William Howard Day

See more about this African-American abolitionist, educator, and newspaper publisher above. The historical marker dedicated in 1997 is located at Lincoln & Carlisle Streets in the town of Steelton, just outside of Harrisburg.

T. Morris Chester

See more about this African-American war correspondent above. The historical marker dedicated in 1986 is located at Market Street near 3rd Street in Harrisburg.

Wilt Chamberland's Scoring Record

Wilt Chamberlain set the single-game scoring record in the National Basketball Association (NBA) by scoring 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169–147 win over the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962, at Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

It is widely considered one of the greatest records in basketball. Chamberlain set five other league records that game including most free throws made, a notable achievement, as he was regarded as a poor free throw shooter. The teams broke the record for most combined points in a game (316). 

The game was not televised, and no video footage of the game has been recovered; there are only audio recordings of the game's fourth quarter. The NBA was not yet a major sports league and struggled to compete against college basketball. The attendance at this game was around half of capacity, and no members of the New York press were at the game.

The historical marker dedicated in 2002 is located along the road at 100 Hersheypark Drive near the Hersheypark Arena in Hershey.  

Harrisburg Giants Baseball Club

The Harrisburg Giants were a U.S. professional Negro league baseball team based in Harrisburg. They joined the Eastern Colored League (ECL) for the 1924 season with notable players as Hall of Fame center fielder Oscar Charleston as playing manager, outfielder/first baseman Heavy Johnson who won the batting triple crown the previous year while playing with the Kansas City Monarchs, and the speedy outfielder Fats Jenkins who was also a well-known professional basketball player and member of the New York Rens. The roadway historical marker dedicated in 2005 is located between Walnut Street Bridge and the Senators Baseball Park on City Island.

Lincoln Cemetery

See more about this cemetery above. The historical marker dedicated in 1994 is located at 30th Street & Booser Avenue in Penbrook.

U.S. Colored Troops Grand Review 1865

More than 180,000 African Americans served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, including 11 regiments from Pennsylvania. 

In November 1865, the city of Harrisburg hosted a Grand Review parade for the regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) who were not invited earlier that year to march in the Grand Review for Union armies along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.for President Andrew Johnson.

Thomas Morris Chester, Harrisburg's most distinguished African American at the time, served as grand marshal for the parade which formed at State and Filbert Streets, now Soldier's Grove.

The procession traveled through Harrisburg to the home of U.S. Senator and President Lincoln's former secretary of war Simon Cameron.

Cameron officially reviewed the troops from his front porch (pictured below) and thanked them for their service to the nation.

John Harris Mansion | Harrisburg, PAThe John Harris - Simon Cameron Mansion is open for public tours.

NOTE: The mansion will be temporarily closed for maintenance from Jan. 1 thru Mar. 2, 2018.

Others who spoke at this event included Octavius V. Catto, an African American educator and USCT recruiter from Philadelphia; William Howard Day, abolitionist and clergyman; and Brevet Major General Joseph B. Kiddoo, former commander of the 22nd Regiment USCT.

This event marks Pennsylvania as the only state to officially honor black soldiers for their service immediately following the Civil War.

The historical marker dedicated in 2006 is located at Soldier's Grove behind the PA Capitol Complex on Walnut Street and 7th Street across from the State Street Bridge.

Underground Railroad

Harrisburg's prominent role in the advance of the Union cause leading to the Civil War was particularly evident by its sympathy in harboring former slaves who had escaped servitude from the South.

As early as 1836, the Harrisburg Anti-Slavery Society was founded and in 1847 the group brought noted reformers William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas to hold a rally at the Dauphin County Courthouse.

During this period, Harrisburg became a key station in the "Underground Railroad" which stretched from Maryland northward to Canada.

While many secretly opened their doors to provide haven to escapees who under federal law could be reclaimed by their "owners," sections of the old Eighth Ward neighborhood, which once stood behind the PA Capitol Building, and homes on Tanners Avenue in particular, became later known as a nucleus of this activity.

Located at the corner of Tanners Avenue and South Street, near the present southern entrance to the South Office building stood the church of Harrisburg's oldest African American congregation, the Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church.

Founded in 1829 from an earlier organization dating to 1817, the congregation first met in a log building at S. Third and Mulberry Streets.

Its presence at Tanners Avenue and South Street was first established in 1838 when a one-story brick building was constructed. This was replaced by a larger building in 1862 that was remodeled in 1886.

The final church at this location was built in 1894, although demolished in 1915 for the expansion of Capitol Park.

After two additional moves, Wesley Church survives today at Fifth and Camp Streets in Uptown Harrisburg and continues its tradition of community outreach and service.

The historical marker dedicated in 2000 is located in Capitol Park on Walnut Street near Commonwealth Avenue in Harrisburg.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

This memorial garden dedicated to Dr. King is located along the Harrisburg Capital Area Greenbelt bike path between 19th and 28th Streets.

MLK Memorial Capital Greenbelt Harrisburg PA

The centerpiece of the garden is an 11-ft black granite obelisk and a kiosk (pictured above) featuring a copy of Dr. King's inspirational speech "I Have a Dream" which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963.

Five years later, the American civil rights leader would be assassinated at the age of 39 in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. 

About Black History Month

The following content about Black History Month was adapted from the web site HolidaysCalendar.com.

Black History Month is a holiday which is celebrated every February in the U.S. And Canada and in October in the U.K.

It’s an important month for remembering important people, events and achievements of African diaspora.

In the U.S., it is also known as African-American History Month, but in Canada and the United Kingdom, it is known simply as Black History Month.

Black History Month can be traced back to September 1915. In that year, historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).

This organization was dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements of not only black Americans but all prominent people of African descent.

ASNLH would go on to sponsor a National Negro History Week in 1926.

The month of February was chosen because the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass are in that month.

As word of this week spread, many communities around the country began to organize local celebrations and this trend continued into the late 1960's when Negro History Week was transformed by the Civil Rights Movement into Black History Month.

In 1976, Black History Month was officially recognized by the federal government. 

In the United Kingdom, Black History Month was first celebrated in 1987 thanks to the leadership and efforts of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo.

In Canada, thanks to a motion by Jean Augustine, Canada’s House of Commons took the steps to official recognize the achievements and struggles of black Canadians by recognizing the month of February as Black History Month.

This occurred in 1995 and in 2008, the Canadian Senate officially recognized the month as Black History Month as well.

Author: Rick Dunlap

Public Relations Director
Visit Hershey & Harrisburg
3211 North Front Street, Suite 301 A, Harrisburg, PA 17110