My Contribution: I was a life-long resident of Harrisburg who worked for abolitionist causes before the Civil War and fought for Black political and social rights after it. I frequently represented the Eighth Ward as an active member of the local Republican party, serving in leadership positions in political organizations including the Eighth Ward Republican Club and the Eighth Ward Garfield Arthur Club. I planned the celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment for the Harrisburg community.
My Legacy: I was a well-known and well-respected resident and political activist in my community for over 40 years and impacted fellow residents through numerous events and meetings. I helped Black residents of the Eighth Ward to gain access to the vote and to become politically active in the years surrounding the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment.
About Me: “Joseph Popel has been known in this city for upwards of fourscore years as an honest and respectable citizen.” — Harrisburg Telegraph, February 21, 1881.
“Mr. Popel was identified with every movement tending to the eleva- tion of his race, and was known as a man of broad and liberal views.”
— Obituary, Harrisburg Telegraph, February 19, 1881.
Full Name: Joseph B. Popel
Birth Date: 1820
Death Date: February 19, 1881
Place of Birth: Maryland
Race: “Colored” (Civil War Draft), “Mualatto” (1850, 1860, and 1870 Federal Censuses), Black (1880 Federal Census)
Places of Residence: Harrisburg: North Ward, dwelling no. 103 (1850); Ward 4, dwelling no. 458 (1860), Ward 8, dwelling no. 438 (1870), 123 Short Street (1880).
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resident. One of the most politically active members of the community who represented the Eighth Ward in political affairs, especially in conventions and meetings of the local Republican party.
Family Members: Wife: M1: Rachael Popel (1850 Federal Census). Wife: M2: Cynthia Popel (1860 and later censuses). Children: Caroline Popel, Margaret Popel, Francis Popel, William Popel, Joseph Popel, Charles S. Popel, Mary A. Popel, and Rachel Popel
Education: Member of Mr. Alex Sloan’s Sunday School Class at Elder Street Presbyterian Church
Occupations: Laborer. Hotel washer. Public school janitor
Church Membership: Elder Street Presbyterian Church, Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church
Activism: Republican Party (prominent member, who often represented the Eighth Ward as a delegate/committee member)
Garfield and Arthur Club often held in Franklin Hall on South Street (vice president and president pro temp); Eighth Ward Republican Club (president); planner for gala celebrating the Fifteenth amendment; Brotherly Love Lodge (parade chief marshal); Apolia Baseball Club (secretary); Union Republican Central Club (president); Union of Sabbath School Workers.
Connections: John Q. Adams, Cassius M. Brown, T. Morris Chester, William Howard Day, George Galbraith, John Gaitor, George H. Imes, and John W. Simpson.