Retelling the Story of Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community: My Final Reflections

– Kelan Amme, Lenwood Sloan (who plays Martin J. Delaney), and Lewis Butts (who plays Jacob T. Compton) discuss project details. Image by Kelan Amme.

For part one of this story, click here.

For part two of this story, click here.

When I first began brainstorming how the Chester Way walking tour, my idea of the deliverable looked much different than it does now. At first, I planned to travel around the Thomas Morris Chester Way, filming video and recording audio of the sights and sounds of today at specific points of interest. These points of interest would be cross-referenced to places of historical value in the Old Eighth Ward as well as mid-19th century to early 20th century Harrisburg. I planned to create short informational videos about different spots on the walking tour where someone could come up to a poster, scan a QR code, and watch a video about what this location may have looked like in the past. I planned to find resources to use as visual and story elements.

Ultimately this all changed (for the better) when I was first introduced to Lenwood Sloan and the Pennsylvania Past Players at the McCormick Riverfront Library on September 25th over a ZOOM meeting. When we first began discussing our ideas, Mr. Sloan said that he had a set list of historical actors who all played African American figures who had a significant historical impact on Harrisburg, the country, and even the globe in some instances. My group and I knew immediately that we should create a virtual tour filming the actors “doing the tour” in character, editing the videos to be the best quality possible, placing the videos on YouTube, and eventually creating an online tour using a Story Map program. As of right now, my group and I have nine complete videos that are waiting to be reviewed and edited with finishing touches like music and other visual adjustments. We hope to have the Pennsylvania Past Players, as well as one of the video production professors at Messiah University, check over our final projects in due time. Our nine videos consist of eight full-length shots with the historical actors and one behind-the-scenes video where we document the rehearsal process for the past players. This took place before we filmed them in full costume and gave us great insight into what to expect on the tour and the work it takes to put on such a production.

Regarding who worked on what for this project, on our filming days, Jacob Silliman, my dad, and I all filmed for the video. My other group members, Micah Turner and Nate Castellitto, helped with the project’s audio recording, editing, and poster-creating portion. I also managed the communication between my group and our community partners. Overall, I have enjoyed being able to help make this walking tour and gain the valuable experience of working with community partners to create public history. Considering that this was my first time ever working on a project this in-depth, I am proud of the outcome. I am also confident in my abilities going forward if I continue with something similar. Going forward into the winter break and next semester, even though I am not taking any more Humanities Projects courses, I plan to stay involved in this project and possibly help create the story map and see the videos up at the Library.

Once the videos are uploaded, we will put a link to the project here.

Kelan Amme is a junior History major with a concentration in Public History and a minor in Digital Public Humanities at Messiah University. He also works as an Archival Assistant at the Messiah University Archives, a diplomat for the department of History, Politics, and International Relations, and is the Social Media Manager for the Messiah University History Club. His LinkedIn profile can be found here.

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