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In 2020, a coalition of citizens, organizers, legislators, and educators came together to commemorate the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments by establishing a new monument in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This would be a memorial dedicated to the capital city’s significant African American community and its historic struggle for the vote. The Commonwealth Monument, located on the Irvis Equality Circle on the South Lawn of Pennsylvania’s State Capitol Grounds, features a bronze pedestal inscribed with one hundred names of change agents who pursued the power of suffrage and citizenship between 1850 and 1920.
This book is a companion to this monument and tells the stories of those one hundred freedom seekers, abolitionists, activists, suffragists, moralists, policemen, masons, doctors, lawyers, musicians, poets, publishers, teachers, preachers, housekeepers, janitors, and business leaders, among many others. In their committed advocacy for freedom, equality, and justice, these inspiring men and women made unique and lasting contributions to the standing and life of African Americans—and, indeed, the political power of all Americans—within their local communities and across the country.
Calobe Jackson, Jr., is an historian of Harrisburg African American studies, Katie Wingert McArdle is a writer and researcher currently serving as the head swim coach at Dickinson College, and David Pettegrew is a professor of history at Messiah University.