As our nation commemorates the anniversaries of the ratification of the 15th Amendment (1870), which enfranchised African-American men, and the later 19th Amendment (1920), which extended the vote to women, a coalition of citizens, civic organizations, and educational institutions of the Harrisburg region have partnered to celebrate, remember, and reflect on these significant milestones in the capital city of Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth.
In 2020, the Commonwealth Monument Project celebrated the passing of these amendments by:
- telling the stories of 100 historically significant women and men who impacted Harrisburg’s African-American community, and honoring their descendants (= 100 Voices)
- exploring the history of the Old Eighth Ward, the heart of Harrisburg’s African-American, Jewish, and immigrant neighborhoods in the late 19th century, which was demolished by state order in the 1910s to create the Capitol Park (= Look Up, Look Out campaign)
- hosting educational workshops, performances by living history characters, and scholarly book talks (= Live and Learn Gamut Theater events, and Chautauqua workshops)
The project culminated in a dedication of a new monument in late summer and fall 2020. On August 26, the official 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, we hosted small gatherings at the State Capitol from 4:00-5:30 PM (which were televised on Channel 20).
The monument includes four life-sized bronze statues representing legendary Pennsylvania orators (shown in the illustration below) who visited or resided in Harrisburg in the late 1800s: William Howard Day, the educational reformer and civil rights pioneer; Frances Harper, poet, abolitionist, and suffragette; Jacob T. Compton, sergeant in Company D of the 24th United States Colored Infantry (USCT) and local musician; and T. Morris Chester, Civil War correspondent and recruiter. These statues surround a pedestal (see below) with molded images of houses, businesses, and churches of the vanished Old Eighth Ward and an inscription recording 100 significant local residents.
The completed monument was unveiled at the ribbon cutting ceremony in August 26, 2020. Many local organizations as well as other community and local government supports gathered at a socially-distant celebration of the monument.
The project organizer is the IIPT Harrisburg Peace Promenade, a project of the Foundation for Enhancing Communities, fiscal sponsor. The Digital Harrisburg project, a collaborative initiative of Messiah University and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, has contributed to this project through the support of those institutions and a Council of Independent Colleges grant (Humanities Research for the Public Good) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
To volunteer or contribute information on the Old Eighth Ward, contact us.
Adopt one of the 100 names and contribute to our research to help us celebrate these important people. Contact email@example.com to share your connection, volunteer, explore a lead, or pass on information. We need your help!
To learn more about the many facets of the project, click on the images below, read the relevant essays posted on our publications page, or check out recent media coverage.
To donate to this project, click on the Donate icon below.
One Hundred Voices
As a a companion to the 100 names inscribed on the Commonwealth Monument, this free e-book and digital exhibit gives voice to the lives, stories, and passions of Harrisburg’s change agents for the power of suffrage and citizenship. They include freedom seekers, abolitionists, suffragists, moralists, policemen, masons, doctors, lawyers, musicians, poets, publishers, teachers, preachers, housekeepers, janitors, and business leaders, among many others.
Look Up, Look Out: A Poster Campaign to Remember the Old Eighth Ward
Discover the Old Eighth Ward
Commonwealth Monument Project Facebook Page
Listen to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale reflect on the legacy of William Howard Day in this Audio Interview from March 2020.