Exploring Black History Near your Canvas Apartment
February is Black History Month, and the first Black History Month took place at Kent State University in 1970 after Black educators and the Black United Students proposed a way to honor and highlight the African diaspora’s shared history.
Six years after the first celebration at Kent State, Black History Month was being celebrated all across our country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and community centers, both great and small. When President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976, during the celebration of the US Bicentennial, he urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
In the Black community, Black History Month was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of Black history clubs, with an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Today, it was a nationwide event with college majors dedicated entirely to the study of Black History. Taught in schools of all demographics across our nation, names like Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman have become just as synonymous with American history as figures like George Washington and John Adams.
While we have a way to go for true equality in America, we can start by learning our shared history, as Black History is just as much American History as the stories of our white founding fathers. To learn a bit more about Black History, this month and every month of year, check out this local educational resource near your apartment.
Patriots of African Descent Monument – Located within historic Valley Forge National Historic Park and less than 10 minutes from your Canvas apartment, The Patriots of African Descent Monument was built to honor Black soldiers who served during the Valley Forge Encampment in 1777. This structure is comprised of a granite block and a bronze bas-relief that includes carved texts. The bronze relief depicts three soldiers, all wearing military uniforms, each holding a musket in hand. On the back of the monument are the words, “In Honor of the PATRIOTS OF AFRICAN DESCENT who served, suffered, and sacrificed during the Valley Forge Encampment 1777-1778.”
Pawling Farm – This property, on the northwestern border of Valley Forge National Historic Park, had a role in the 1777-1778 winter encampment, as a location for both protection and supply. However, its historical significance goes beyond the Revolution. Quaker and abolitionist Elijah Pennypacker used it as a crossing point for the Underground Railroad as escaped slaves left Chester County for Montgomery County. Slaves seeking freedom were transported by canoe at Pawling’s Ford (also nearby Port Providence), on their way to safety.