Lynched — in Pennsylvania. The other day I went to nearby Haverford College to check out a temporary exhibit titled “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America.” It was created by the Equal Justice Initiative, whose new center in Montgomery, Ala., memorializes the 4,000-plus black people killed by vigilante lynchings in the U.S. The exhibit includes a video map of these horrors, shown in red, state by state. The old Confederacy appears as a huge crimson spatter on the map, but there are some red spots in the North and West as well. Even Pennsylvania has two. One spot is in Chester County and one in Monroe, not far from the locale of my Underground Railroad history book, Embattled Freedom. The Chester lynching occurred in 1911. A black steelworker accused of a shooting was rounded up by a white mob there and burned alive before a crowd of 3,000, including women and children. The Monroe killing occurred in 1894 in the lovely Poconos. An African American foreman for the Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad was accused of fatally shooting a white merchant and robbing his family. A mob of 500 shouting “Lynch the n–!” stormed the lockup and got their hands on the suspect. He was taken to a tree and hanged — the preferred method in most racist lynchings. Many thanks to the EJI for bringing these outrages to modern awareness and tying them to other current issues. I’ll never forget the exhibit’s video account of a California woman who returns to the old family home in Louisiana to look into her great-granddaddy’s lynching a century ago. She keeps her composure until she and her kin walk to the spot. She looks up at the tree and cries like a baby. “The Legacy of Lynching” closes this Sunday, Dec. 16, at Haverford’s Whitehead Campus Center.
On the Map. You might want to know about a worthy new effort called the Pennsylvania African American Documentation Project. It was covered this week by reporter Kristin Graham, a former colleague of mine at The Philadelphia Inquirer. The project, she writes, is developing a digital database of every black cemetery in the state, “from single plots to the resting places of hundreds, with GPS coordinates, tax parcel numbers, and photos.” I’ve reached out to the project leader, Shippensburg University historian Steven Burg, to be sure he knows about the graves of the thirteen black soldiers I profile in Embattled Freedom. Seven of them are among the fugitive slaves who lie buried in an integrated cemetery in Waverly, Pa., It’s also good to know that the Waverly Community House is asking the National Park Service to be listed as a site on its Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, based on Waverly’s “Destination Freedom” educational map. I was pleased to write a letter of support to the application and proud to be part of the effort.
Book News. It was my honor to speak in the past month to Civil War Round Table groups in Philadelphia and Woodbridge, N.J. The Philadelphia chapter is based at the Union League and meets in the club’s august Lincoln Memorial Room — where my podium was placed right in front of a towering statue of the Great Emancipator himself. Next up is a talk to another large chapter, the Delaware Valley Civil War Round Table. It’s scheduled for Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m., at the Radisson in Trevose, Pa.