African Americans and Greene County Government, Pennsylvania

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African Americans and Black History Month...
Greene County, Pennsylvania

Contact Persons: JoAnne Marshall, Communications/Tourism Director

Greene County Tourist Promotion Agency, Fort Jackson Building
1st Floor, 19 South Washington Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370
Phone: 724-627-TOUR (8687) / Fax: 724-627-8608
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Monday—Friday

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low,
the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all flesh shall see it together" ... Martin Luther King, Jr.

February is African American History Month:
The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. Read More >>

Black History Recognition:
Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied—or even documented—when the tradition originated. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.

We owe the celebration of "Black History Month", and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born in New Canton, Virginia, on December 19, 1875. to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and became an educator, teaching high school and later serving as the dean of liberal arts at Howard University and West Virginia State College. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in 1908 from the University of Chicago, and later earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1912, becoming the second African-American to earn a Ph.D. From there Woodson traveled to Asia and Europe, where he spent a semester at the Sorbonne in Paris. He mastered several languages, which enabled him to teach in the Philippines. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population—and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time. Woodson fought for the education of black people and the celebration of black culture. His idea of taking time to acknowledge blacks' accomplishments is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago. Mr. Woodson passed in 1950.

Mr. Woodson, always one to act on his ambitions, decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

Mr. Woodson chose the second week of February for "Negro History Week" because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. However, February has much more than Douglass and Lincoln to show for its significance in black American history. For example:
  • February 23, 1868 — W. E. B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.
  • February 3, 1870 — The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.
  • February 25, 1870 — The first black U.S. Senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took his oath of office.
  • February 12, 1909 — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.
  • February 1, 1960 — In what would become a civil-rights movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.
  • February 21, 1965 — Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was shot to death by three Black Muslims.
Past Slavery in Greene County:
Many of the early settlers in Greene County owned and brought their slaves with them. Slaves and slavery cannot be ignored, as the institution of slavery is what the nation was built upon. The slaves of Greene County made a contribution to the initial settlement of our County and the founding of both Jefferson and Waynesburg, PA.

Reference "Early African American Life in Waynesburg, Greene County" — a book co-authored by two Greene Countians (Marlene Garrett Bransom and Bill A. Davison of Waynesburg). This book is written about the lives, experiences and history of African Americans in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Slavery is defined as an social-economic system under which certain persons (known as slaves) are deprived of personal freedom and compelled to perform labour or services. The term slavery also refers to the status or condition of those persons, who are treated as the property of another person or household. Slaves are held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase, or birth, and are deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to receive compensation in return for their labour. As such, slavery is one form of unfree labour.

Where slavery has been a legal or customary practice, slaves were held under the involuntary control of another person, group, organization, or state. The legal presence of slavery has become rare in modern times, as nearly all societies now consider slavery to be illegal, and persons held in such condition are considered by authorities to be victims of unlawful imprisonment. (Wikipedia, free online encylopedia).

The State of Pennsylvania took an enumeration of taxable inhabitants every seven years. Known as the Septennial Census, this enumeration also listed slaves in each county, by township, for some of the years. The amount of information on the slaves varies greatly by county. Greene County lists only the slaves' sex and age. Few slaves younger than 20 are recorded, indicating that only the slaves born before November 1780 were enumerated, they being considered "Slaves for Life." Children of slaves born after that date were to be freed upon their 28th birthday, according to the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780. These children, although held in bondage for 28 years, were officially called "servants," and often not counted in tax and census listings as slaves. There are some exceptions!

Greene County Slavery Facts:
  • In 1775 — Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage was founded. In that year, there were several local anti-slavery societies in Pennsylvania. After 1832, however, there were no slaves in Greene County and by 1860 there were 57,000 blacks in Pennsylvania but no slaves.

  • Slavery in Pennsylvania — click here for the Greene County Federal Census of 1800 all persons of color, free, and slave.

  • The Underground Railroad — grew out of the anti-slavery movement. The Pennsylvania Underground Railroad had three well-worn escape routes: western, from Morgantown, WV; central, from Cumberland and Frederick, MD; and eastern, from Baltimore, MD. Greene County entry stations from Virginia originated in Mt. Morris. From there, slaves took one of several routes, following Dunkard Creek to Monongahela; following Hargus Creek to Leonardsville (Holbrook); or using the Warrior Trail to Waynesburg, Washington or Jefferson (Hughes House). Runaway slaves kept going on to Canada, or they blended in with the mountains around Johnstown, or went to Lancaster County, PA.

  • Thomas Hughes House — Jefferson, Pennsylvania. Owned by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC), this stone two-story structure was built in 1814 by local slaves (construction funded by Thomas Hughes, a respected and influential member of the community). The building has been restored and will be used as a library satellite for the Jefferson area (near Mather).

    The historic Thomas Hughes House (owned at the time by Thommes Hughes) was built of hand-hewn stone from a nearby quarry and cut by area slaves; this is one of only a few houses built by slaves north of the Mason-Dixon line. And one of the few buildings that continues to stand today. While one part of the two-story home may have been built as early as 1792, the main part was constructed in 1814. The original one-story section was most likely a kitchen that was attached to a cabin.

    The Greene County Historical Society has overseen this site for the PHMC for the last 12 years until funding for its restoration could be procured. In 2001, the Governor released these funds and construction bids were being sought for adaptive reuse restoration of the original structure with an appropriate period addition to meet ADA requirements. A lease agreement between the PHMC and the Greene County Library System, for the use of the site as a satellite library for the area, is also underway. The site was complete and in use in the late 2001.
Underground Railroad in Greene County:
The Underground Railroad was neither "underground" nor a "railroad," but was a loose network of aid and assistance to fugitives from bondage. Perhaps as many as one hundred thousand enslaved persons may have escaped in the years between the american Revolution and the Civil War. (Source:

In 1990, Congress authorized the National Park Service to conduct a study of the Underground Railroad, its routes and operations in order to preserve and interpret this aspect of United States history. This study includes a general overview of the Underground Railroad, with a brief discussion of slavery and abolitionism, escape routes used by slaves, and alternatives for commemoration and interpretation of the significance of the phenomenon.
Resourceful Links &151; local African American Hertiage:

For general information, please contact the Information Services
at 724-852-5399 / Toll Free: 1-888-852-5399
Greene County Office Building, 93 E. High Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370

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