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 2019-2020, the Commonwealth Monument Project is celebrating the passing of these amendments by:

  • telling the stories of 100 historically significant women and men of 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 will culminate in festivities in late summer and fall 2020. In August, we will host a White Carnation Society dinner at the Harrisburg Hilton on Tuesday, August 25, 5-7 pm to recognize and honor the descendants of the 100 Voices. On August 26, the official 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, there will be a People’s Rally from 1:00-3:00 PM in the Capitol Rotunda, and the dedication of the new commonwealth monument from 4:00-5:30 on the lawn of the Irvis Office Building. Additional events will occur in the fall.

The Commonwealth Monument Project (a one minute video of WHBG-TV 20)

The monument will include 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 will 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 Old Eighth Ward, east of the State Capitol in 1858, was Harrisburg’s original multiethnic community (source: Library of Congress)
The pedestal that is central to the Gathering at the Crossroads 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 College and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, is contributing 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 donate to this project, click on the Donate icon below.

To volunteer or contribute information on the Old Eighth Ward, contact us.

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.


100 Voices

Explore the names of the 100 Harrisburg area residents who are going to be honored on the pedestal. Are you a descendant? Do you know someone who is? Contact us at digitalharrisburg@messiah.edu.

Look Up, Look Out: A Poster Campaign to Remember the Old Eighth Ward

Explore some of the main historical themes of the Old Eighth Ward.

Discover the Old Eighth Ward

View historic photographs, stories, and an interactive map of the Old Eighth Ward in the early 1900s.

Commonwealth Monument Project Facebook Page

For weekly updates on the work and activities of the Commonwealth Monument Project, visit the Old Eighth Ward Facebook page.

Press Conference at Harrisburg City Hall, Feb. 18, 2020 (WHBG-TV 20)

Listen to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale reflect on the legacy of William Howard Day in this Audio Interview from March 2020.


Commonwealth Monument Project Website

The official website of the Commonwealth Monument Project.