My Contribution: As a man of words, I used my printing press and voice to elevate the status and quality of life for African Americans. I jointly published a newspaper, organized Black voters, and served on the borough council of Steelton. I pushed for more home and business ownership by African Americans, and I organized a quality school for Black children.
My Legacy: As Steelton’s first African American council member, I improved the circumstances of my neighbors through voting and education to foster more and greater opportunities. My early work with the Afro-American Republican League of Pennsylvania helped pave the way for the support of the NAACP in Pennsylvania.
In My Words: “I landed here [the borough council], and I pledged to them, as well as to God, that I would try to make good, in order that they might never regret that they advised me to come into this office as a representative of the colored citizens of this borough. I do not think that there has been a moment, gentlemen, of my association here that I have not tried to be fore the best interest of these citizens.” Harrisburg Telegraph, December 24, 1913.
Full Name: Peter Sullivan Blackwell
Birth Date: April 1860 (1900 Federal Census), 1862 (1887 Marriage License), or 1868 (1930 Federal Census).
Death Date: July 7, 1936, Midland Cemetery, Steelton.
Place of Birth: Harpers Ferry, Virginia
Race: Black (1910 and 1920 Federal Censuses) and “Negro” (1930 Federal Census).
Places of Residence: 118 Adams Street, 116 Adams Street, and 218 N. 2nd Street in Steelton.
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Actively involved in Steelton’s civic life and printed an influential local newspaper read by African Americans of Harrisburg and Steelton.
Family Members: Father: William Blackwell. Wife: Mary A. (Washington) Blackwell. Adopted Son: Arthur Blackwell.
Education: Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Occupations: Printer. Newspaper editor, Steelton press. Grocer. Salesman. Steelton Third Ward Republican Club. Steelton borough councilman. Laborer. Steelton stone quarry.
Church Membership: Monumental AME Church, Allen AME Church.
Activism: Paxton Lodge, No. 16, Masons; Swatara Lodge, No. 19, Odd Fellows; Steelton Cyclones baseball team (secretary and manager); Afro-American Republican League of Pennsylvania (president); organized and chaired committee to welcome home Black men of Steelton after World War I; Steelton Third War Republican Club; co-founded Hygienic School, Steelton.
Connections: George H. Imes (co-editor at Steelton Press), Frisby Battis and Dr. Charles Crampton (fellow members in Afro-American Republican League of Pennsylvania).