Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Local leaders, elected officials cut the ribbon on African American history monument

Community members cut the ribbon on a monument celebrating African American history in the state.

As you walk downtown you may see some new faces.

Local leaders, elected officials and community members gathered to cut the ribbon on a new monument on the state Capitol grounds recognizing Harrisburg’s African American history.

For the past few years, members of the Commonwealth Monument Project have been planning and preparing the large bronze monument that now sits at 4th and Walnut Streets.

“Today’s monument is a long-overdue tribute to the hardworking Pennsylvanians who lived and worked here in the 8th Ward,” PA Gov. Tom Wolf said.

The project’s Executive Director Lenwood Sloan saw the memorial as a way to pay tribute to Harrisburg’s Old 8th Ward, a historic primarily Black and immigrant neighborhood that was demolished to make room for the Capitol complex.

The monument is titled “A Gathering At The Crossroads: For Such A Time As This.” The base, or the “Orator’s Pedestal,” features 100 names of families from the Old 8th Ward. On top sits a map of the historic neighborhood’s streets. Two figures surround the pedestal, African-American abolitionist William Howard Day and suffragist Frances E.W. Harper.

Sloan said on Nov. 14, two more figures will be added, Jacob T. Compton, a sergeant of the 24th United States Colored Infantry (USCT) and local musician, and T. Morris Chester, Civil War correspondent and recruiter.

The A.R.T Foundry of Lancaster is responsible for creating the monument.

The small plaza where the monument sits is being named the Irvis Equality Circle. It allows visitors to walk around and view the monument.

“It is a proud day to be mayor of the City of Harrisburg,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse. “This has completely changed the streetscape.”

Papenfuse presented Sloan with the key to the city, a significant gesture he said he doesn’t do often.

Leaders, elected officials and others who had a hand in the project gathered around the monument to form a “unity circle.”

“Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,” Sloan said.

The Commonwealth Monument Project is part of the IIPT Harrisburg Peace Promenade.

Philanthropist Peggy Grove, Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg were the top funders of the project. M&T Bank, Giant Company, Highmark and The Foundation for Enhancing Communities contributed as well.

“What started as a vision has come to fruition,” said Phyllis Bennett, a member of the project’s team.

For more information on the Commonwealth Monument Project, visit https://digitalharrisburg.com/commonwealth/. For more on the IIPT Harrisburg Peace Promenade, visit their website.

 

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