Monday, February 27, 2012

Richard Henderson

RichardHendersonPACrawford County, PA

Marker Text: Born a slave in Maryland in 1801, he escaped as a boy and about 1824 came to Meadville. A barber, he was long active in the Underground Railroad. His Arch Street house, since torn down, is estimated to have harbored some 500 runaway slaves prior to the Civil War.

Location: At the corner of Liberty and Arch Streets, next to Bethel AME Church, Meadville, PA.  Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1980.

  When the Richard Henderson marker above was approved in 1980, it represented only the third time a African American Pennsylvanian had been honored by a state historical marker.


Bethel A.M.E. Church is on the left of the marker and faces Liberty Street, Arch Street is on the right. Click any photo to enlarge.

  According to Meadville tradition, Richard Henderson was the first permanent black resident of Meadville. Richard had escaped from slavery at the age of 15 with his two brothers and a sister. The brothers survived, but the sister died after catching pneumonia during the journey. One of the Henderson brothers continued north to Canada. The other two, Richard and Robert, established a barbershop in town.

  Richard Henderson's residence was located near this marker according to a 1875 Meadville map his home would have been across the street from the church about three houses east of the church on Arch Street. His home operated as a station along the Underground Railroad and is estimated to have aided some 500 runaway slaves.


Arch Street is on the right and according to 1875 map, Henderson’s home would have been located approximately where the yellow house is across from the church in the photo.

  While his brother Robert eventually left to establish his own barbershop in nearby Brookville, Richard remained in Meadville. There, he was a leader in the local Underground Railroad network from the 1830s to the 1860s. Abolitionist John Brown lived north of Meadville until 1835 and did came to Meadville often. He helped to establish other stations for the Underground Railroad in the surrounding area. Though I did not find any specific evidence of a connection and it is very likely that John Brown and Richard Henderson knew each other in regard to Underground Railroad operations and may have learned from each other.

  Richard Henderson was a prominent member of the African American community, where he helped to form Meadville's Bethel A.M.E. Church in 1849 (where this marker is located) and served as an early trustee. Richard Henderson married twice. His second wife, Mary, was born in Erie, PA in 1821. Together they raised two sons, Edward and Lincoln. Edward Henderson recalled that he saw his parents provided shelter and a hiding place in their home for as many as twenty fugitives at a time. Richard Henderson died in 1880 at the age of 79 and is buried in Meadville.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

James Lafayette

James Lafayette Marker WO-17  New Kent Co., VANew Kent County, VA
Marker No. WO-17

Marker Text: James Lafayette was born in slavery about 1748 near here. His master William Armistead was commissary of military supplies when in the summer of 1781 the Marquis de Lafayette recruited James as a spy. Posing as a double agent, forager, and servant at British headquarters, James moved freely between the lines with vital information on British troop movements for Lafayette. The Virginia General Assembly freed James in 1787 in recognition of his bravery and service, on the written recommendation of Lafayette, whose name he took for his own. He died in Baltimore on 9 Aug. 1830.

Location: On Route 249 (New Kent Highway) at old courthouse, New Kent Courthouse with marker WO-18 (New Kent Courthouse). Erected by Department of Historic Resources in 1997.

  During February, I have been posting some of my markers related to the history of African Americans, since this is Black History Month or African American History Month. Throughout the history of the United States, African Americans have made significant contributions to all the major conflicts that the U.S. has been involved even during the period they were held in slavery. I earlier posted about Dick Pointer in West Virginia who helped to defend Fort Donnally in Greenbrier County during Native American attacks.
James Lafayette Marker WO-17  grouped with other markers and monuments.
Lafayette marker is on the left of the stone monument.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  Today's marker is about James Lafayette who was born in slavery about 1748 and lived in New Kent County, Virginia. His master William Armistead was commissary of military supplies during the summer of 1781, when the Marquis de Lafayette recruited James as a spy, Armistead had been given permission by his master to join the revolutionary cause.

  Wars are rarely fought without the use of spies and the American Revolution was no exception. Arguably, the most important Revolutionary War spy was a slave named James Armistead. Although many fought as soldiers, blacks, both free and enslaved were being used by the British and the Americans to gain intelligence against each other. Many African American slaves worked for the British based on the promise that the British would free them after the war and the British were victorious.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Desegregation of Pennsylvania Schools

Desegregation Of Pennsylvania Schools Marker in Meadville, PACrawford County, PA

Marker Text: An event here in September 1880 led to the end of segregation by race in the state's public schools. At the South Ward schools, Elias Allen tried unsuccessfully to enroll his two children. He appealed to the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas, and Judge Pearson Church declared unconstitutional the 1854 state law mandating separate schools for Negro children. This law was amended, effective July 4, 1881, to prohibit such segregation.

Location: On South Main Street in front of The Second District School, Meadville, PA. Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2000.

  My last post about school integration during the 1950's in what was called “Massive Resistance” over segregation within Virginia schools was only one event in many years of struggle to integrate public schools. The first struggles to integrate public schools began less than 20 years after the end of the Civil War, like this marker located in Meadville, PA indicates.

Desegregation Of Pennsylvania Schools Marker on S. Main Street in Meadville, PA

Photo taken looking south on S. Main Street in Meadville, PA. Click any photo to enlarge.

  On May 8, 1854, Governor William Bigler signed Pennsylvania's common school law creating “separate schools for the tuition of negro and mulatto children.” Twenty-six years later in September 1880, Elias Allen, an African American living in Meadville, Crawford County, challenged the legislation by trying unsuccessfully to enroll his two children in the South Ward school in Meadville. The following year he adamantly refused to send his son to an all-Black school to which the county’s school board had assigned him.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Warren County High School and Massive Resistance

Warren Co. High School and Massive Resistance Marker J-22Marker No. J-22
Warren County, Virginia

Marker Text: Warren County High School, a Public Works Administrative project, was constructed in 1940. In 1958, the local NAACP chapter, lead by James W. Kilby, won a federal suit against the Warren County School Board to admit African Americans for the first time, in response, Gov. James Lindsay Almond Jr. ordered it closed in Sept. 1958, the first school in Virginia shut down under the state's Massive Resistance strategy. Following the 1959 Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruling that Massive Resistance was unconstitutional, a U.S. Circuit Court ordered it reopened. On 18 Feb. 1959, 23 African American students walked up this hill and integrated the school.

Location: Close to street address, 240 Luray Avenue, Front Royal, VA in front of the Warren County Middle School, which is the former high school mentioned in the marker. Erected by the Department of Historic Resources in 2010

Warren Co. High School & Massive Resistance Marker in front of High School

Former Warren Co. High School is on the hill and was recently remodeled for use as the Middle School.

  Today's marker is a recent addition to Virginia State Historical Markers, it was dedicated in Front Royal, VA on June 8, 2011. I attended the dedication of this marker and is the first and only dedication I have attended so far. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell recently issued a certificate of recognition to Warren County's survivors of Massive Resistance. On Saturday, an event was held at the Warren Heritage Society with the presentation of the legal document proclaiming Feb. 18, “Survivors of Massive Resistance Day” by Gov. McDowell.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dick Pointer

Dick Pointer marker in Lewisburg, WVGreenbrier County, WV

Marker Text: Enslaved African, noted for bravery in defense of Fort Donnally during Shawnee attack May 29, 1778. He was granted his freedom by James Rodgers in 1801. Land granted to other defenders; his 1795 pension petition, supported locally, denied. Reportedly, citizens built cabin for Pointer, who died in 1827. Buried with military honors in the African-American cemetery on Church St.

Location: On Church Street, Lewisburg, across from the Old Stone Presbyterian Church and Cemetery, within the boundaries of an old African-American cemetery. Erected by the WV Celebration 2000 – West Virginia Division of Archives and History in 2003.

  Dick Pointer was described as a large powerful man with very black skin, he was the slave of Colonel Andrew Donnally. Dick Pointer was credited with saving more than seventy human beings, the greater number being women and children from the tomahawk and scalping knife of the Indians.

Dick Pointer marker and monument in African-American cemetery in Lewisburg, WV

The Dick Pointer marker and to the left is a stone monument dedicated to Pointer as well.  Photo of the brass plaque is below.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  Donnally owned the valley, or at least a large part of it, where he erected the stockade to protect the settlers from Indian forays. The fort was a single log house, two stories high, and a kitchen one and a half story high, with a passage way of eight feet between them. The stockade was eight feet high made of split logs. The fort stood on the east side of Raders creek, in Williamsburg District, ten miles north of Lewisburg. According to a newspaper article in 1969, it is reported that the door from the old Fort Donnally may be seen in the State museum in the Capitol at Charleston.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Underground Railroad Activity in Chambersburg

Underground Railroad Activity In Chambersburg marker in PAFranklin County, PA

Marker Text: Throughout the pre-Civil War period, there were a number of Underground Railroad "stations" in this area, temporary places of refuge for former slaves escaping through the mountainous terrain to freedom in the North. One local Underground Railroad agent was a free black barber, Henry Watson, who assisted fugitive slaves as they passed through Chambersburg, helping to keep them safe and undetected by the slave-catchers and bounty hunters searching for them.

Location: Main St. & U.S. Route 30 (Lincoln Highway), on the Northeast quadrant of the "diamond," in downtown Chambersburg. Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2002.

  Today's marker is one of many historical markers related to the Underground Railroad, as it was to be called. Many communities in Pennsylvania were located just north of the Mason-Dixon line and were natural locations for involvement in the Underground Railroad movement.

Underground Railroad Activity In Chambersburg marker in PA  There would probably be hundreds of historical markers about the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania, if we knew of their existence, therefore no historical markers will ever commemorate their actions. Maintaining records by the people involved about the activities of the Underground Railroad would have been potentially dangerous for the persons helping African-American slaves escape and the escapees themselves, so few records exist. Through later local stories told by residents following the Civil War and the limited number of records that were maintained, we today know about possible routes fugitive slaves would have followed on their journey. What appears clear, however, is that people with widely different backgrounds from across Pennsylvania contributed to the success of the Underground Railroad. They did so at considerable risk, but most remained surprisingly defiant despite the dangers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

First Africans in English America

First Africans In English America - Marker WT-1Marker No. WT-1
James City County, VA

Marker Text: The first documented Africans in English America arrived at Jamestown in August 1619. A Dutch man-of-war captured them from the Spanish, who had enslaved them, and sold them to the Virginia colonists. The "twenty and odd" Africans, some of whom had been given Spanish names, may have been treated like indentured servants and later freed after their periods of servitude expired. From this beginning the institution of slavery evolved during the 17th century as the Virginia colonists extended the length of service for Africans from a fixed term to life. The United States abolished slavery in 1865.

Location: Marker is grouped with five other markers on Frontage Road paralleling Route 31 (Jamestown Road), 0.2 miles north of Route 359. The markers are north of the northern terminal for the Jamestown Ferry crossing the James River. Erected by the Department of Historic Resources in 1992.

First Africans In English America - Marker WT-1 in James City Co. VAPhoto taken looking north, Frontage Road on right and Route 31 on left. Four other markers can be seen in the distance.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  This month is African-American History month and I will share some markers related to this month long observance. This marker actually commemorates a tragic day in the history of African-Americans when about 20 African-Americans arrived in the colonies and millions more who would follow, to be enslaved in the English Colonies and the United States during the next 247 years. In 1619, the first Africans were brought to Jamestown under what was presumed to have been indentured servitude. (An indentured servant would be required to work a set amount of time, then granted freedom.) Over the next few decades this would change to the enslavement of black Africans occurring one law at a time and one colony at a time.