Although the weather is looking gloomy, today is filled with celebration as the state recognizes Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the freedom of enslaved African Americans.
As part of the day’s events, members of the IIPT Harrisburg Peace Promenade presented the City of Harrisburg with a bronze map replica of the historic Old 8th Ward.
“This is an exciting day for our city and country,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said of the holiday. “This is part of a national conversation about how we can continue to learn and grow.”
The bronze map shows houses, churches, synagogues and other landmarks from the neighborhood that was demolished for the expansion of the Capitol grounds. The Old 8th Ward was primarily an African American and immigrant community that was displaced with the expansion.
“The future is judged by how well we preserve the true and just stories of the past,” Lenwood Sloan, director of the project, said.
This piece, which will hang in the Harrisburg City Government Center, is one of a series of four replicas of the Old 8th Ward. The first was given to Peggy Grove, a supporter of the Peace Promenade project. The second went to Gov. Tom Wolf, the third to the city today, the fourth will go to the county, and the final has yet to be decided.
The A.R.T Foundry of Lancaster is responsible for the creation of the map.
The map will reflect the top of the Orators’ Pedestal—the base of the Commonwealth Monument Project. On the pedestal, 100 families’ names are engraved, as well as maps of Old 8th Ward streets. At the top of the pedestal will stand four historic African American figures from Harrisburg—Frances Harper, Thomas Chester, Jacob Compton and William Howard Day.
The monument will reside on the Capitol grounds at 4th and Walnut Streets, with the finished project set to be unveiled on Aug. 26.
“This will be the first African American monument on the Capitol grounds,” said Kelly Summerford, treasurer of the project. “That has to mean something.”
While just a portion of the larger Commonwealth Monument Project was presented today, it draws even greater significance from the day’s holiday.
“We find this a very fitting way to begin our festivities on Juneteenth,” Papenfuse said.