Central Pennsylvania African American History for Everyone
              An Online Resource Since 1997


Entrance to the old Central High School, which formerly stood at Capital and Forster Streets.Football player Andrew Green, circa 1930.

 Football History
 page 2

High School

First Black Cheerleader


Several readers have sent inquiries about the history of the football program at Harrisburg High School and its ancestor schools, John Harris and William Penn, which now represent separate campuses of the school.  Those schools, built in 1926, replaced the old Central and Technical High Schools.  The Technical High School building still stands as Old City Hall Apartments, taking its current name from its post educational use for many years as Harrisburg's city hall, until the city moved City Hall to the King City Government Center on Second Street.  The Central High School building, originally at Capitol and Forster Streets,  no longer exists.  We welcome letters, reminiscences, feedback and general comments regarding the topic. 

 First Black Cheerleader

Kimberly A Ross-Seals writes

The Harrisburg High Cheerleaders recently recognized the first black cheerleader for William Penn High School at the Homecoming game this past Saturday.  They would also like to recognize the first black cheerleader at John Harris High School. My father, Gary Ross, and men of his age, were talking about this at the game and they think it s either Barbara Brown or Ruthie White.  Would you or Mr. Jackson know the answer?  Thanks for all of your help.

How about it, readers?  Do you know the answer to this question?  If so, or if you have something to add to the conversation, please respond.


We sent out some queries to the above question and received a few responses.  Calobe Jackson Jr. checked a 1957 yearbook but found that there were no African American cheerleaders that year.  Jim Avery of Quechee, Vermont checked his yearbook. He graduated from John Harris High School in 1966 and reports that senior Geraldine Hord was on the cheer squad.  Jim notes "You would think it was before that," that the high school cheerleaders would have welcomed their first African American member, but we will have to see if anyone turns up earlier instances.

Thank you to everyone so far for their interest.  Don't forget to send in your stories, photographs and reminiscences of high school days in Harrisburg.


Kimberly A Ross-Seals writes back with the answer to the question

I just wanted to let you guys know that I have been advised that the first black cheerleaders for John Harris were Barbara Brown and Ruthie White.  This has been confirmed by a couple of graduates from the class of '63. Thanks!


Mike Coleman adds

Your father, Gary "Skully" Ross, was the best natural athlete ever to come out of the 'burg, period, end of story.   I graduated in 1959 with your uncle Ollie and he was sensational also.  Mike Coleman, WPHS, 1959 (March 15, 2006)

Jim Hoffman confirms

In regards to the question of the first African-American Cheerleader at John Harris, I think that it was Ruthie White from what I recall.  I finished in the class of "61". Please tell your dad I asked about him.  We were in school together along with Mike Settles, David Waters, Sam Mundy, Melvin Elby, Floyd Manning and the list goes on.   Jim Hoffman

Leah Burnette adds

I can confirm that Ruthie White was indeed the first black cheerleader at Harrisburg High School. How do I know this? She s my mother!

I will let her know that you are looking for her. This project is important and I am extremely proud to be even a small part of it.

Share your memories about African American community life
 in the Harrisburg area--write to us


Correspondence, Kimberly A Ross-Seals to Afrolumens Project, 18 October 2005; November 15, 2005. 

Correspondence, Calobe Jackson, Jr. to Afrolumens Project, 19 October 2005.

Correspondence, Jim Avery to Afrolumens Project, 19 October 2005.

Correspondence, James Hoffman to Afrolumens Project, 9 May 2006.

Correspondence, Leah Burnette to Afrolumens Project, 15 September 2006.



for more information

For more football material, see our
first page of Harrisburg High School memories, and our photographs and memories from Sheila Green-Stevenson.
   Sheila has also sent an interesting article about the devotion that Steelton residents have toward their high school football program.  Click here for that article.

Calobe Jackson, Jr. sent a photograph and short bio of Dr. Charles Hoyt Crampton, medical advisor to decades of Harrisburg high school athletes.  Click here to read it.

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