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Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, African-American Historical Resources

The concept for this project began in 1997 as part of the Raising Our Sites initiative developed by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. The Lancaster County Historical Society was one of fourteen institutions committed to reaching out to the underserved in our community. Our goal was to introduce our resources to African-Americans and children and plan creative programs to encourage and sustain the use of our resources by those who did not traditionally come to our institution.

As a first step we examined our collection and created an annotated Bibliography of African American Resources enabling us to have a concrete working research tool. Then we incorporated children's programming by developing a very successful Summer History Camp for an ethnically and economically diverse group of 4th and 5th graders. This program, focusing on the Lancaster County's role in the Underground Railroad, garnered a state and national award in 1999 and has been offered again in 2001.

The annual Pennsylvania Black History Conference, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, was held at Millersville University in 1997. An outgrowth of that event was the formation of the Black History Roundtable, a group of Lancaster County community organizations, which meets quarterly to share new developments and programs relating to their mutual interest in black history.

The Lancaster County Historical Society works closely with area colleges and universities to foster dialogue on local and regional historical perspectives. The Regional History Colloquium encourages scholars to introduce a work-in-progress to an attentive audience. Often primary sources cited in the research are part of the collection of the Lancaster County Historical Society.

Dr. Tracey Weis, professor of history at Millersville University, has made extensive use of the historical society's African-American primary documents in academic courses. As director of New Media Classroom she has introduced primary sources in electronic format to workshop participants. Several of the databases on this website have been created by her students using these new technologies and pedagogy skills

The Lancaster County Historical Society is a partner in the National Endowment for the Humanities Underground Railroad Project. This program, directed by Dr. Weis, further expands the exploration and outreach of African-American primary documents and their creative and constructive use for educators.

Although many of our resources focus on the Underground Railroad as an organized fugitive movement during the three decades preceding the Civil War, we have compiled primary documents that reflect the African-American community as it developed in the 18th century as well as the 19th century of Lancaster County history. The timeline lists dates and significant events in the history of African-Americans in Lancaster County prior to the Civil War.

Funds to develop this website have been provided by a LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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