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Central Pennsylvania's journey from slavery to freedom

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Free Persons of Color

Underground Railroad

The Violent Decade

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Year of Jubilee (1863)

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The Year of Jubilee: 1863 iconYear of Jubilee
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Friends of the project,

The Afrolumens Project is back online after a twelve year absence. We are now at, and not .org (please make a note). For now, the site has been restored exactly as it was in September 2012, including outdated events and announcements. I will gradually update everything I can.

Thanks for nearly two decades of support--The Afrolumens Project began in 2002. The Year of Jubilee book, which is essentially the book form of the Afrolumens site, is available used here and there. You may also read the full text on this site--see the link above.

-- George Nagle, Harrisburg PA



On this date in local
African American history...

April events in local African American history (see the whole year)

April 12, 1861: The American Civil War begins with the shelling of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, by Confederate batteries. The bombardment began at four-thirty a.m. and continued for thirty-four hours. The Union garrison surrendered on Saturday, April 13, 1861.

April 12, 1865: The Army of Northern Virginia officially disbands and over 28,000 Confederate soldiers stacked their arms at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, and returned home, marking the end of the war in Virginia.

April 14, 1800: Caesar, the slave of John McAllister of Tyrone Township, Cumberland County (modern day Perry County), is beaten to death by William McAllister, John’s brother, for the supposed crime of stealing some money. Both men are later tried and found guilty of murder by a county court.

April 14, 1851: The Franklin family is arrested in Harrisburg, including a small child born in Pennsylvania. Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister tries to suppress protests by holding the hearing in the pre-dawn hours, but word gets out. The family is sent south without the youngest child, who is placed with a local black family.

April 14, 1865: President Abraham Lincoln is shot at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth.

April 15, 1865: At 7:22 a.m., Abraham Lincoln dies from the wound received at Ford's Theater from assassin John Wilkes Booth.

April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American to play professional baseball in the major leagues when he appears at Ebbets Field with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

April 16, 1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia.

April 16, 1863: The Harrisburg Daily Telegraph reports on a fugitive slave who was being lawfully taken through the city back to slavery in Maryland.

April 17, 1861: Virginia becomes the eighth state to secede from the Union.

April 21, 1825: Harrisburg's first reported incident in which local Blacks come to the aid of a captured fugitive slave with the use of public demonstration and force in an unsuccessful rescue attempt.

April 21, 1865: Abraham Lincoln's funeral train brings his body to Harrisburg, arriving about 8:30 p.m. At Market and Fifth streets, his body was transferred to a hearse hitched to four white horses. Grooms led the horses west on Market Street to the Square, turned north to travel along Second Street to State, where the funeral procession turned right to proceed to the Capitol. From 9:30 p.m. until midnight, Harrisburg citizens filied through the House Chamber of the Capitol to view his body in the open casket.

April 22, 1865: At 7 a.m., mourners began viewing Abraham Lincoln's body in the House Chamber of the Capitol at Harrisburg. At 9 a.m., the casket was closed and prepared for the funeral procession back to the waiting funeral train at the Market Street station. More than forty thousand people lined the route along State, Second and Market streets. Ordinary citizen mourners were allowed to join the funeral procession at the end, with African American citizens segregated to the very rear. The train pulled out of Harrisburg at 11 a.m.

April 25, 1821: Harrisburg borough passes an ordinance requiring all “free persons of color” to register with the town burgess and report their names, occupations, addresses and the names of all family members and other non-whites in their homes. They had to notify the authorities if they moved to another residence in town, and if anyone moved in with them. This ordinance was an attempt to control non-whites who were not already under the rigid controls of slavery and indentured servitude.

April 28, 1847: George B. Vashon, son of John Bethune Vashon, a political activist and Underground Railroad conductor of Carlisle and Pittsburgh, become the first African American to pass the New York State Bar.

April 29. 1824: Birthday of George Boyer Vashon, abolitionist, lawyer and educator. Born in Carlisle to abolitionist and rights activist John Vashon, George was the first African American graduate of Oberlin College. He studied law and was later president of Avery College in Pittsburgh. He would go on to help found Howard University.

April 29, 1852: A. D. Ridgely, a police officer from Baltimore, Maryland, shoots to death William Smith, an alleged fugitive slave working at a lumberyard in Columbia, PA. Ridgely was accompanied by Solomon Snyder of Harrisburg, a deputy to Federal Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister in Harrisburg. The incident causes outrage in the north.

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