Stories from the Old 8th Ward

Businesses on the eastern front of Walnut street viewed from the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Transportation hub text….

Gwendolyn Bennett, a famed writer and actor during the Harlem Renaissance, lived in Harrisburg during her high school years.

Gwendolyn Bennett would come to be world-renowned as one of the many writers and artists who were collectively part of the African-American cultural flourishing of the 1920s known as the Harlem Renaissance. However, before making her way to Manhattan Island, Gwendolyn Bennett spent time in Harrisburg. Unfortunately, she did not arrive under the best of circumstances, as she was kidnapped by her own father and stepmother amidst a custody dispute. Because Harrisburg was such a busy transportation hub at the time, Bennett’s father was able to avoid authorities until they relocated to Brooklyn in 1918. However, despite the troubling circumstances of Bennett’s time in Harrisburg, she nevertheless flourished in her elementary school, attending the Lincoln School located in the Old Eighth Ward.

A picture of a young Gwendolyn Bennett (far left) that appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph, 1916.