CCHS exhibits offer insight into local African Americans’ past
The Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) would like to invite residents to celebrate Black History Month by visiting its present exhibits, which highlight the local African American community, including the newest: “On the Edge of Battle: Chester County and the Civil War.”
This exhibit examines life in Chester County during the bloodiest war in our nation’s history, focusing on the hopes and struggles of local men and women living in Chester County at the time of the Civil War. Upon entering the exhibit visitors receive a “character card” that tells the first part of one of twenty-five individuals’ stories. These cards include Richard Adams, a member of the Third “U.S. Colored Troops”; Henrietta Cummings, who was born into a free black family and was proposed to by her love before he enlisted; and Joseph Jones, a member of the first black regiment of the war, the 54th Massachusetts.
Visitors to the exhibit can search for ancestors in a database of over 6,000 Chester Countians who served in the war. Up until the opening of “On the Edge of Battle,” only 112 records about Chester County African American soldiers in the Civil War were compiled. Now, through research by archivist Cliff Parker and photo archivist Pam Powell, that database includes 925 African Americans.
CCHS is also proud to present Family Day on President’s Day, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Activities will include a special kid-friendly presentation by Jen Bryant, author of “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin.” Pippin, an acclaimed 20th century African American artist, was a native of West Chester, and Bryant’s new children’s book brings his story to life through vivid imagery and stories.
Another initiative of the Chester County Historical Society is the Traveling Trunk educational program. These “trunks” are filled with materials and activities that engage and inform students on important points in our history, including early settlement, the American Revolution, the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. On Feb. 27, the US Airways’ African American Diversity Network (AADN), a company-sponsored employee group that encourages an inclusive workplace, will display the Horace Pippin Traveling Trunk to over 600 employees at the Philadelphia International Airport.
The Paoli Public Library, as well as a group of homeschoolers, will be using Underground Railroad Traveling Trunk during February because of its specific link with the black community during the time of the Civil War, and its focus on the Underground Railroad in Chester County.
“On the Edge of Battle: Chester County and the Civil War” is open during CCHS’s public hours of 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 225 N. High St., West Chester. To find out more or to arrange a group tour or a rental of traveling trunks, visit ChesterCoHistorical.org or call 610-692-4800.