In 2020, a coalition of citizens, organizers, legislators, and educators came together to commemorate the 15th and 19th Amendments by establishing a new monument in Harrisburg, 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.
These 100 Voices included 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.
The project resulted in a book titled One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920, published by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. Edited by Calobe Jackson, Katie McArdle, and David Pettegrew, it includes contributions by descendants of the one hundred voices and thirty Messiah University students and staff. As a companion to the monument, the book gives voice to the lives, stories, and passions of the 100 Voices.
To download a free copy of the book, click on the image above or visit the publisher page at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. The book is also available for $10 in physical copy via this Amazon page.
In 2020-2021, Messiah University students will be developing web pages for each individual. Pages will include biographical templates plus primary source material including newspaper articles, letters, and census records (see Maude Coleman and Ephraim Slaughter for examples of cards with sources). Some of these cards are available in a preliminary way without their source material: John Q. Adams, Aquilla Amos, Roscoe C. Astwood, William Battis, Frisby Battis, Gwendolyn Bennett, Alexander Dennee Bibb, and Josephine L. Bibb Davidson. Students will add primary source material for the cards above and the other names in the coming year.
We seek to work to tell the stories and legacies of these 100 women and men. Are you a descendant? Do you know any of the individuals below? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to share your connection, explore a lead, or pass on information.
For further background to the 100 Voices project, read this post.
The Commonwealth Monument Project, also known as the IIPT Harrisburg Peace Promenade 15th Amendment Project, is organized by the International Institute for Peace through Tourism Harrisburg Peace Promenade, and funded through its fiscal sponsor, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, as well as a Humanities Research for the Public Good grant from the Council of Independent Colleges.