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 a two-day blast of activities on June 14 and 15, 2020. Festivities will begin Sunday, June 14, 2020, with a White Carnation Society dinner at the Harrisburg Hilton recognizing and honoring the descendants of the 100 Voices. Events on June 15 include 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.
The monument will include four life-sized bronze statues representing legendary Pennsylvania orators (shown in the illustration above) 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 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.