Racial Calculation Focuses on Historic Pennsylvania Roadside Markers
Pennsylvania had been installing historical markers for more than a century when racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 sparked a new round of questions from the public about who was telling the stories on the roadsides of the State – and the language used to tell them.
The increased scrutiny helped prompt a review of the 2,500 markers by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a process that focused on factual errors, inadequate historical context, and racist or otherwise inappropriate references.
So far, the state has removed two markers, revised two, and commissioned new text for two more.
Across the country, historical landmarks have in some places become another front on the national scene. account on slavery, segregation and racial violence this at Also beaten downCivil war statues and changed or reconsidered the names of establishments, roads and geographic features.
The idea that “who is honored, what is remembered, what is commemorated tells the story of a society that cannot be reflected in any other way” is at the origin of an effort by the ‘Equal Justice Initiative, based in Montgomery, Alabama, which installed dozens of markers, mostly in the South, to remember racial terror lynchings.
Historical markers educate the public and therefore can help fight systemic racism, said Diane Turner, curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University in Philadelphia, one of the nation’s largest custodians. black history literature and related materials.
“Being able to tell everyone’s story is good for society as a whole. It’s not to be taken away from anyone else, ”Turner said. “Let’s have these stories, because the more truth we have, the better.”
At the request of Bryn Mawr College President Kimberly Wright Cassidy, the Pennsylvania History Agency removed a marker from the edge of the campus indicating that President Woodrow Wilson had briefly taught there. Cassidy’s letter to the commission cited Wilson’s dismissive comments about the intellectual capacities of women and his racist policy of federal labor segregation.
The commission ordered the modification of a marker in the suburb of Philadelphia, birthplace of Continental Army Major General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, because he called him an “Indian fighter”. He is also developing a replacement to a marker that was removed from the grounds of the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, on the site of a 19th century prison, which noted Confederate cavalry were held there after their capture in Ohio during civil war.