My Contribution: I served an important role as a messenger and clerk in the Pennsylvania State Capitol building. I led numerous organizations and societies in Harrisburg and consistently advocated for African American rights and equity. I organized the installation of a fountain honoring Dr. Jones at the entrance to 12th Street Park. My mother was the first Black resident to own a house in Verbeketown in the Sixth Ward.
My Legacy: I was an essential worker for the State Capitol. My role as a messenger made me a trusted member of state operations while my activism and engagement in my community made me a leader of advocacy and political work during my time. My work as a political advocate and active leader in the Sixth Ward united Black Harrisburgers and cultivated a sense of resilience amid the community despite the ongoing displacement of many African Americans in Harrisburg due to the Capitol Extension Project. I was recognized as an outstanding leader even in my own day in the Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory published in 1910.
About Me: “Mr. Burrs’ operations are of a purely local character, and he has succeeded in building up quite a large and profitable business.” Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory, 1910.
Full Name: Harry Burrs
Birth Date: March 25, 1877
Death Date: December 6, 1958
Place of Birth: Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
Race: Black (1880-1920 Federal Censuses), “Negro” (1930-1940 Federal Censuses)
Places of Residence: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 1430 Marion Street (1900), 130 Fulton Street (1910), 1407 Marion Street (1917-1930), and 516 Calder Street (1940-1958)
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Active in organizations grounded in the Eight Ward; participated in advocacy work alongside on behalf of many Eighth Warders.
Family Members: Father: George Burrs. Mother: Elizabeth Franklin Burrs. Siblings: George W. Burrs and Lizzie Burrs.
Education: Harrisburg High School graduate (1899)
Occupations: Elevator Boy (1900). State Capitol Messenger. Capitol Clerk (1930).
Church Membership: Harris A.M.E. Zion Church (likely).
Activism: Dauphin County Afro-American League (President); Unity Lodge No. 71, Colored Elks (Exalted Ruler, treasurer, district deputy for Central Pennsylvania); Elliott Association for Colored Grads of Harrisburg High Schools (organizer and president, 1901-1910); Sixth Ward Social Club (host); Sixth Ward Casino Baseball Team (manager); and Lincoln Cemetery Decoration Day (orator, 1899).
Connections: Peter Blackwell, John P. Scott, Rev. William H. Marshall, Sylvester Burris, William Howard Day, John W. Simpson, and Dr. William H. Jones.