Lift Every Voice and Sing

The February program page has info on upcoming events. Most Trails of History sites will be closed on Monday (Feb. 19) for Presidents Day, with the exception of (as far as I know) Fort Pitt Museum and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Also, if you'd like a copy of PHMC's 2016-17 Annual Report (and why wouldn't you?), it is available online.

As you know, February is Black History Month. This provides an opportunity to focus particular attention on African American history and, I think and hope, a reminder that our history as Americans has always been multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faceted. We need to hear and tell all of these stories to gain a fuller understanding of who we are as a nation, as a state, as local communities, and as families. Here are some highlights from the PHMC's Trails of History.

Granville C. Smith, Scranton business leader (via Anthracite Heritage Museum)
The Anthracite Heritage Museum has organized an exhibit entitled "Granville C. Smith: African-American Business and Community Leader," which explores Mr. Smith's business, social, and philanthropic involvements and his legacy in the community (read much more on the Facebook entry for the exhibit). The exhibit will be in place all month in the museum lobby; entry to view the Granville Smith exhibit is free (admission rates apply to visit the rest of the exhibits).


The State Museum of Pennsylvania's Black History Month exhibit, "Trailblazers: Notable African Americans in Pennsylvania History," is now a permanent feature in the East Wing of the Pennsylvania State Capitol. The exhibit features a broad array of men and women who have played significant roles in the Commonwealth's business, political, educational, and social realms. Virginia P. Florence (above), 1903-1991, was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. Mrs. Florence was the first African American woman to receive professional training in librarianship, enrolling at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library School in 1922. Her library career began at the New York Public Library and included work as a high school librarian in Brooklyn, NY, and Richmond, VA. (You'll find an album of Pennsylvania Trailblazers on the PA Trails of History Facebook page.)

Each year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, sets an annual theme for Black History Month. 2018's theme, set to coincide with the centennial of the end of World War I, is "African Americans in Times of War."


Last weekend, Tyler Gum, director of the Pennsylvania Military Museum offered a lecture program, "They Fought Equally: USCT in the Civil War." The program highlighted the 11 Pennsylvania regiments of the United States Colored Troops, including their training at Camp William Penn (see historical marker above). One of the Pennsylvanians featured in the presentation was 1st Sergeant Alexander Kelly, Company F, 6th U.S. Colored Troops. Sgt. Kelly, born in 1840 in Saltsburg, Indiana County, was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions taken on Sept. 29, 1864, at Chaffin's Farm, Virginia. The medal citation reads: "Gallantly seized the colors, which had fallen near the enemy's lines, raised them and rallied the men at a time of confusion and in a place of the greatest danger." (You can read more about Sgt. Kelly, pictured below in post-war life, on the PA Civil War 150 website.)

Alexander Kelly (1840-1907) served with 6th USCT and was awarded the Medal of Honor

On Tuesday of this week (Feb. 13), I had the opportunity to attend a multi-agency event centered on the 2018 Black History Month theme, "African Americans in Times of War." The organizing committee for the program included Janee Corbin of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, and the program took place in the museum auditorium. Other agencies represented were the Governor's Advisory Commission for African American Affairs, Office of Administration, Dept. of Community & Economic Development, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Human Services, Dept. of Labor & Industry, Public Utility Commission, and the PA State Library. The program started with the Harrisburg School District's Naval Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NJROTC) Color Guard presenting the colors and the assembled speakers and audience singing the National Anthem. Governor Wolf appeared via pre-recorded remarks and representatives from the organizing agencies spoke on various aspects of the theme. Two members of the NJROTC talked about their interest in military service, followed by Brigadier General David E. Wood, Director of the Joint Staff for the Pennsylvania National Guard, and Colonel Korvin "Kory" Auch, Special Advisor on Veterans Programs to the Secretary of Administration.

Col. Auch introduced the keynote speaker, Chief Master Sergeant Trae R. King, United States Air Force, Retired, who now serves in a civilian capacity as Chief, Force Support Readiness Policy for the Air Force. She spoke briefly but movingly about her experiences in the military and about the ongoing work of securing civil rights for all Americans. The program, which I found both educational and inspiring, concluded with James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing," performed by the Earth Tones (a multi-agency chorus) and the audience. My thanks to all who organized and presented at this event.

On This Day in History - February 16

In honor of the cadets from Harrisburg High School who participated in this week's program at The State Museum...


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