“Racism has gone uncheck in this company…”

By Bobbi Booker
The Book Report

Civil rights groups across the nation have blasted the decision by CBS Television to support the producers of the Survivor reality show contest that will set contestants against each other according to race. The announcement of the segregated edition of Survivor comes on the eve of a $1 million racial discrimination trail of a former CBS Radio employee who was forced to resign from WIP-AM sports radio.

According to Duane Lucas, the plaintiff in the upcoming trail against WIP, the announcement about the new season of Survivor is an example of “the consistent arrogance of the company.”

“Racism has gone uncheck in this company for years and nobody challenges them,” said Lucas. “One of the things that happens in this business is that you can’t jump up and scream, ‘racism,’ because where are you going to get a job at next. So you have to be really professional and sure of what’s going on. Racism is what domestic violence was 40 years ago: you didn’t talk about it.”

Lucas started his career at WIP radio as an account executive in 1994 and in a year was promoted to Director of Sport Sales. He was responsible for the station’s base of advertisers and sponsors and for developing new business in support of the station’s programming for the Philadelphia Eagles, 76er’s and Flyers. According to court papers filed in the United States District court, Lucas was the target of a racially motivated campaign to discredit him and his fellow black colleagues, including talk show hosts Gary Cobb and Carlos Beck, both of whom filed discrimination charges against WIP’s parent company, CBS radio. In 2002, Lucas resigned after receiving a nearly 50% reduction in his salary.

WIP-AM management was unavailable for comments when called on Friday. Earlier in the week, CBS Networks officials issued a statement of support for producers’ decision to pit Blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics against each other during the early rounds of the show.

“CBS fully recognizes the controversial nature of this format but has full confidence in the producers and their ability to produce the program in a responsible manner,” the network said in a statement. “Survivor is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen.”

Last season, Survivor registered a franchise-low average of 16.8 million viewers. In announcing this season contestants, show host Jeff Probst insisted the stunt was the next logical step in a series that made its name on exploring social politics.

“If this didn’t say Jeff Probst, I would think that this was something that was produced by David Duke,” said Lucas who charges that CBS’s decision to support the Survivor show proposal is indicative of the corporate culture of the network.

“How long have we been experimenting with this?” wondered Lucas. “Through hangings, through church bombings, through hate crimes, through cross burnings? How much more do we need to experiment with separation of the races?”

On Friday, a group of New York City officials blasted CBS’ announcement that it has split the contestants on Survivor: Cook Islands into tribes by race.

“This idea is so ill-conceived that it would be funny–but for the fact that racism does still sometimes rear its ugly head,” New York city councilman John Liu said at a press conference.” This show has the potential to set back our nation’s race relations by 50 years.”

“CBS has demonstrated great lapse in judgment. As a society, we need to hold corporations responsible for their actions,” New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito said.

“I think that in Survivor they should have the strongest teams that they can,” said Lucas. “Why divide this by race? Why send us back another 200 years? This is just world-class ugly.”

The spread of negative racial stereotypes based on CBS’ decision has already begun on the nation’s airwaves. Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has already uttered racially insensitive comments on his national syndicated broadcast.

Hispanics, he said, “have shown a remarkable ability to cross borders” and “will do things other people won’t do.” Asians, according to Limbaugh, are “the best at espionage, keeping secrets.” Blacks, he said, “lack buoyancy” and are “more likely to drown,” while the white man’s burden will weigh down the last team with “guilt over the fact that they run things.”

Survivor: Cook Island is scheduled to air starting September 14, 2006

Lifestyle/Leisure/Literature

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Frederick Douglass Lives…

By Bobbi Booker

The Book Report

During the 1850s, the famed abolitionist, orator, editor, statesman, author, suffragist and publisher, Frederick Douglass usually spent about half of the year traveling extensively and giving lectures.

On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall.
Antebellum audiences enjoyed patriotic speeches on Independence Day, but the mostly white audience found that instead of the expected platitudes to the founding of the U.S., Douglass delivered a scorching denunciation of the preservation of slavery.

It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

That now-famous address will be recited again on this upcoming Independence Day by Douglass’ great-great grandson and namesake, Frederick Douglass IV.
Much like the man he calls “Granddaddy,” Douglass IV travels throughout America to continue the legacy of his famed ancestor by lecturing about him, depicting his speeches and reenacting key episodes of his ancestor’s life.

The most memorable element in the Rochester speech was Douglass’ use of the second person to illustrate the chasm between your freedoms as whites under the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and slavery. “He comes down as being barbarous, but he ends (the speech) on a note of optimism because he believes that ultimately all these things were going to be righted, maybe not within his lifetime, but he really felt that the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 14th Amendment and other things would lead to equality. To read these things it not only recalls the time in which they were living in which slavery was in America, but the scary part is so much of it is relevant to today.”

“The speech remains contemporary, and in my view, with all respect due to Frederick Douglass, understated,” says radio talk show host Reggie Bryant. “He employs rhetoric and appeals to the conscious and the ethical morality of persons to note what he says. I think he presented them with more credit than they were due. It is clear to me that the context today of (Independence Day) is a vicious and callous and fraudulent exercise when it comes to descendents of those Africans who where kidnapped and brought here against their will and continue too suffer ant the hands of bigots and racist who pretty much dominate the so called government here. There was no reason on that original date, and there is no reason today, for Blacks to celebrate anything. When this so-called declaration was penned, Africans were to face another 100-plus years of slavery.”

Douglass IV travels with his wife of 30 years and co-reenactor, B.J, who similarly portrays Douglass’ wife Anna Murray Douglass. The elder Douglass’ had five children with Douglass IV being the descendent of Frederick Douglass, Jr. The current Douglass’ are founders of The Frederick Douglass Organization, developed to promote education, financial literacy, economic development and bridging the digital divide—all issues that Douglass IV believes his grandfather would embrace.

Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland 1818, but in 1838, at age 20, he escaped to freedom in New York. Eloquent, smart and determined, Douglass gained fame as a speaker, began his own anti-slavery publications and in 1845 published his memoir “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” In later years he became a personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln and helped persuade Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He died at age 76 in 1895.

Douglass possessed a commanding presence that was enhanced by his rich and powerful baritone voice. His command of the English language has put him in league with some of the greatest orators of all time. In other words, when Douglass spoke, people listened.

“He wanted to broaden his ability to communicate about the need to end slavery,” explained Douglass IV of his ancestor’s desire to start his own antislavery newspaper, the North Star, after living in exile in England. “He decided when he got back to American he was going to purchase a printing press. So in 1845, a Black man with a printing press was on the cutting edge of technology. That’s how he began broadening his reach. So, if he were here today, he would have a podcast, a website, and DVD’s as communication mechanisms. There are lot of things that need to be done in contemporary America, and I think he would be following his premise.”

Dressing as middle class free Blacks of the 1800’s, the Douglass’ work hard to correct misconceptions such as the belief that all Blacks were slaves and that few Blacks, especially women, were involved in the abolitionist movement. For instance, Douglass IV’s great-great grandmother, Anne, was a free woman who encouraged her husband to eventually buy his freedom.

“Part of our overall mission is to let people know that not everybody during the 1800’s was a slave,” says Douglass IV. “There were those who were born free and there were those who purchased their freedom and became professionals. We want to dispel that kind of mythology so when we go out we dress in finery. My wife dresses in the latest fashions of the 1800’s, which women would have done, and I wear a tuxedo and top hat.”

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey Douglass was a dashing man who was
very conscious of his overall representation to both Blacks and whites. For example, although photography was in its infancy during the height of Douglass fame, he was aware of the influence of photos and was cautious to never smile in any pictures of himself because he did not want his likeness abused.

“He was very conscious of the presentation of Black folks was, in that day it was generally buffooness, and so he did not smile because he did not want his image misused in anyway. He felt that if he did smile than someone could put captions or in some way make a joke out of it,” said Douglass IV, a professional photographer, as well.

“This was really at the beginning of the use of photography. He had a printing press, but he was also very conscious of the image, so he allowed his photograph to be taken and distributed so that Black people an image of a Black person that was positive in the home. He was right in on it and he saw the power of it and he used it effectively. ”

Today, Douglass’ role as the father of the Civil Rights Movement is sadly overlooked said Bryant. “I applaud and share with my audiences the content of Fredrick Douglass’ speech and wish only that he were alive today to revise and to perhaps make even more strident the content in his magnificent ability for oration.”

Likewise, Douglass IV recalled an incident “when a young man asked him what he could do to help change society. (Douglass) responded with three words: ‘Agitate, agitate, agitate.'”

Lifestyle/Leisure/Literature

…So “Beautifully Human”

By Bobbi Booker

It was four years ago this summer when poet Jill Scott quietly released her debut collection, “Who is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol.1” In the time that’s passed since the North Philadelphia posed that question to the world, Scott has proven to be a musical force to be reckoned with.

“Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol.2” is her third release and the follow-up to her smash debut, which sold over 2 million copies—and is still selling strong. Scott took time off to settle in with her beloved husband, Lyzell Williams, fix up her new home and play with her pet cat. Although a lot of press has been given to Scott’s two-year absence, she was still quietly getting busy in the studio and was featured on several cd’s, including The Roots’ “Phrenology,” saxophonist Jeff Bradshaw’s “Bone Deep” and Kindred the Family soul’s debut.

Scott also took the time necessary to nurture the seeds to what will be hailed as one of the best albums of 2004. Human focuses on the woman that Scott has become. The reflections that she offers in this collection will strike close to the hearts of listeners, as was already demonstrated on her recent 9-city “Buzz Tour.”

Scott has proven that she is not the average girl when it comes to her artistic talent. First of all, she described herself as a poet and that is fully demonstrated in Human’s 17-song offering. From the intro, which begins were Scott ended in 2000 with the closing notes of “He Loves Me (Lyzell In E Flat),” she welcomes the audience into her world. The first single, “Golden,” is a high-stepping affirmation of self-determination that already has women, young and old alike, singing along with a smile.

This collection is chockfull of gems, some of which will be deemed instant classics. “Family Reunion” will be rocked at family gatherings for the next couple of decades because of Scott’s dead-on observations of the different personalities that make everyone’s families unique. Family unity is a major part of Scott’s message throughout this collection and Scott reaches out to her universal Black family to embrace African American men young and old on “The Fact Is (I Need You)” and “Rasool.”

Although marriage is paramount throughout “Human” and there are several standouts that are unique in their reflection of Scott’s prior relationships. In “Bedda at Home,” Scott toys with the idea of a fine man that makes her “want to pull single dollars out my pocketbook,” but she declines because her man is so much more. Scott also makes an unusual move for a female artist on “Can’t Explain” when she admits she was wrong in treating her lover badly and apologizes for her transgressions.

Scott strikes gold with “talk to Me,” a tune about a woman trying to get her man to discuss their problems. The words are simple, but the adventure Scott’s band takes as the song goes from one end of the jazz spectrum to the other, finally exploding with a big band flurry of sound, is incredible.

Although Scott has a Grammy for her work as co-writer for The Root’s “You Got Me,” she was merely nominated for her debut collection. In February, watch for Scott’s

“Beautifully Human” to collect a bevy of awards for this groundbreaking artist.

Originally published 8.31.04

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“Queen Cleopatra had a pool table in her abode…”

By Bobbi Booker

The Book Report
Edward ‘Chick’ Davis played pool in his native South Philadelphia
during an era when America’s most roguish sport earned legitimacy and
popularity via its successful stars, including Minnesota Fats and
Willie Mosconi—both of whom played against Chick during his formidable
years. Playing in pool halls across the country Davis frequently
encountered discrimination and had to fight for his right to play as
an equal. This experience motivated him to invest his winnings into
opening three of his own pool halls on South Street in Philadelphia.

Recently, the 98-year-old pool hall marvel joined family and friends
in witnessing the dedication of the “Tribute to Edward ‘Chick’ Davis”
mural next to the site of one of his pool hall sites at 1418 South
Street. Painted by John Lewis, the mural celebrates Davis’ legacy as a
pioneering business leader, entrepreneur, and community activist.
Davis started playing billiards at the Christian Street Y and went on
to become a national championship caliber player.

“This was a man who was multi-talented, but this was where he kind of
made a renowned mark because he played people like Minnesota Fats,
Willie Mosconi, who were legends who got a lot of recognition,” said
son Edward Davis, III. “Here’s a man who played Ralph Greenleaf for
the national championship just before Jackie Robinson broke into the
national league. So, he was a first.”

The dedication featured a special performance by the CAPA Dance
Company, under the direction of LaDeva M. Davis, Chair of the Dance
Department and Chick Davis’ daughter. Davis, one of the legends two
children, spearheaded the efforts to recognize her father’s
contributions to the sport of billiards and his hometown. Chick was
instrumental in keeping clean a sport that was usually played in smoky
bars and on late nights where a win was just as dangerous as a loss.

“Until people discovered that Queen Cleopatra had a pool table in her
abode, they thought that pool was a dirty sport,” said Davis. “And my
father did a lot to clean it up. He made sure that there were no
drugs, alcohol or anything illicit in his pool halls. Women were
welcome to come and partake of the sport. He gave lessons. He would
sit and impart his knowledge of all that he’d went through in his
lifetime.”

Davis explained that her father was a basketball player, but turned to
pool to support his growing family. In addition to his contribution to
the sport of billiards, Davis spent most of his lifetime with his
south Philly childhood sweetheart, LaDeva Davis, who died at age 93 in
2004 after 75 years of marriage. “The big deal is that there are
people here that love my Dad and who have known my Dad for years, or
who love my Dad because of what he stands for and have only just met
him in the last 2, 3, 5 years.”

Amos Florence “Process” Junior, who owns a South Street barbershop of
the same name, was among the 100 guests gathered for the dedication.
In addition to sharing a longtime friendship with Davis, Florence has been
similarly honored with a mural in West Philly. “We go back to the days
where his grandfather taught me how to be a barber,” said Florence.
“I learned to cut hair in the ’40s and I’ve owned a shop since then.”

The Mural Arts Program director Jane Golden excitedly announced that
the Davis wall painting was number 2,659 in a series indoor and
outdoor murals in Philadelphia, more than any other city in the world.
“Everyone, I have to say, was universally thrilled and enthused about
this project,” said Golden. “I know I’m biased, but standing here
today and looking at this beautiful image I want to say to you that
murals have a distinct kind of power. It’s their size; it’s their
scale; it’s the way they surprise us when we’re coming up the street.
But more important than that, it’s a way of holding on to our stories
(and) to our history. Murals are about our dreams and our aspirations;
our struggles and our heroes, (and about) the people who meant
something to us.”

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (MAP) started 25 years ago as part
of the Anti-Graffiti Network (PAGN), a citywide initiative to
eradicate destructive graffiti and address neighborhood blight. Today,
Philadelphia is nationally and internationally recognized as America’s
“City of Murals.”

“I feel very honored to be part of the tradition of bringing art to
all the citizens in this city,” said Golden. “Art is not a luxury: it
is a necessity. And the fact that so many people in this city can walk
by, drive by, run by mural of this scale and complexity is wonderful.”

With a sparkle in his eye, the senior Davis kissed the hands of ladies
he was introduced to, but said little as his friends moved him around
gingerly to keep him cool during the dedication.

“Thank you,” he said as he gazed at the mural. “I like it very much.”

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“Philadelphia is important – it’s my hometown…”

By Bobbi Booker

Ed Bradley is among the Philadelphia natives returning home to promote the regional arts and culture scene in an initiative to boost support of Philadelphia art and artists with a series of ads scheduled to begin airing next month.

The advertising campaign is the brainchild of philanthropist H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest and will feature Bradley along with fellow Philadelphians Peter Boyle, David Brenner, Blythe Danner, Kevin Eubanks, Jack Klugman, Al Martino, Cheri Oteri and Parker Stevenson.

“I’m very grateful to the Philadelphia celebrities who came forward to support Philadelphia arts in this effort,” said Lenfest. “Their contribution of time and talent will help bring more attention to the arts.”

The year-long television campaign supports eleven major arts organizations: American Theatre Arts for Youth, Broadway at the Academy, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Kimmel Center Presents, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Philadanco.

“We all could not afford the kind of coverage we get,” said Joan Myers Brown, artistic director, Philadanco. “So having someone upfront it for us and make sure that it happens means a lot to Philadanco.”

The campaign, which began through a three-year commitment from Lenfest in 2002, has been extended through Spring 2008 and will air over $5 million in television airtime during the campaign’s tenure. The goal is to increase the attendance of a culturally diverse audience at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. In past years, the star-studded ads have featured vocalist Patti Labelle, dancer Judith Jamison and actor Kevin Bacon.

“The arts are important and Philadelphia is important – it’s my hometown,” says Bradley in one of the current commercials. “I’m always happy to support the arts in Philadelphia. This is a chance for me to say, ‘Hey, come out and watch what’s happening in Philly.’”

In another ad, actress Blythe Danner states that, “Growing up in Philadelphia and being surrounded by the arts was an extraordinary experience. Without the arts we are empty. The arts give us tremendous spirit and life force.”

Lenfest is a media entrepreneur who sold his media holdings to Comcast in 2000 for over $1 billion.

“We sold our company in 2000 and came into a lot of money and had to figure out what we were going to do with the money,” said Lenfest. “We decided to create a television and cable advertising campaign to promote not just the institutions, but to support people buying tickets to come to the event.”

Like each arts group featured, Philadanco has selected premier performances or events that will be highlighted in the ads during the 2006-2007 arts season.

“It’s really important that we get the kind of exposure that we wouldn’t ordinarily get, cause you know as an African-American organization we definitely couldn’t afford it,” said Myers Brown. “There’s a network much larger that we need to b e attracting to our performance, so it really works for us.”

“The media companies have all been great, the celebrities are great and it’s all coming together where they all work together to promote attendance to events in the Philadelphia region,” said Lenfest of the four-year-old campaign. “So it’s been a big success.”
The new series of television commercials were screened earlier this week at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and are scheduled to begin airing Sept. 5.

“…If we did that we would have Harlequin romances on the cover every week.”

By Bobbi Booker
The Book Report

“We don’t choose to review books based on the size of the book tour. If we did that we would have Harlequin romances on the cover every week.”

…NY Times’ reponse as to why it did not do a formal book review during Tavis Smiley’s historic 13 weeks as a Top Ten NYTimes best seller.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For more than a dozen weeks, Tavis Smiley’s “The Covenant for Black
America” has been firmly ensconced in the top five of the New York
Times’ list of nonfiction paperback books. The book has proven to be a
publishing phenomena since it is the first nonfiction book by an African
American publisher to reach and top the best-seller list. Yet, for all
its success, the New York Times has yet to do a formal review of the
text.

“The only mention of the book was in a sidebar,” said author and
Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. The “sidebar” Glaude referred
to is “Inside the list, ” written by Dwight Garner, senior of the New
York Times Book Review. The column, says Garner, “is an explanation
of books that are on the best seller list and how well they’re doing.”

Smiley spearheaded “The Covenant” project and edited the text that
essentially gathers six years’ worth of national symposiums in a
collection of essays that plot a course for African Americans. “The
Covenant” book is divided into 10 chapters outlining key issues and
primary concerns that affect Black Americans–from health to housing,
from crime to criminal justice, from education to economic parity. The text
features a collection of essays by contributors Dr. David Satcher,
former U.S. surgeon general; Wade Henderson, executive director of the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Angela Glover Blackwell,
founder of the research think tank PolicyLink; and Cornel West,
professor of Religion at Princeton University.

The popularity of the book, published by Third World Press, the
nation’s oldest independent African American book publisher, has been
spurred primarily by talk radio, church congregations and plain old
word-of-mouth. According to Smiley, the first stop of his national
tour drew over 5,000 people in Houston, TX. Since then upwards of
30,000 people have come out to support the book’s 10-point message.

“In the book review we don’t review phenomenas as much as we review
books,” said Garner explaining that “the process here is subjective
and we miss good books all the time.”

“Tavis Smiley is terrific at what he does,” said Garner. “He’s a very
smart man, but we don’t choose to review books based on the size of
the book tour. If we did that we would have Harlequin romances on the
cover every week.”

Gould charges that inadequate coverage of this book by the mainstream
media is another example of America poking its head in the sand in
regards to race relations. “It’s not just a phenomenon on the New York
Times best seller list,” charged Gould. “Mainstream America doesn’t
have a clue. I don’t know if mainstream white America has an idea that
a Black reading public is sitting around thinking and talking and
debating these issues and preparing themselves to engage in a much
more robust example of what it means to be a citizen.”

Smiley says this book explores the possibility of hope and strength
will help leaders and citizens keep Black America moving forward.

“Our impact has been widely felt,” said Smiley. “As best we can track
this, what we now see is that given the mainstream exposure the book
has received there are people outside of our community who are
embracing the text. (Others races) are embracing it because if you
took the word ‘Black’ out of this book, what you have is a
comprehensive, progressive agenda for making America better. That
should surprise any of us because that is what our history is and part
of our contribution to this country. Black folk have always been the
conscious of this country. The success of the civil rights movement
empowered all kinds of people. The strength that we had to love anyway
empowers and continues to empower all kinds of folk outside of our
community domestically and internationally.”

The African American community continues to experience devastating
social disparities, including the more than 8 million people who live
in poverty. “There are a lot of Black folk who believe that a piece of
Black America died on that balcony with Dr. King in Memphis 38 years
ago. There are many folk in our community since then who have been
wondering ‘Where is the game plan? The guidebook? Where’s the blue
print or the agenda for how we, in a post-King world, can make Black
America better.’ We don’t just live in a post-King world; we live in a
post- (hurricane) Katrina World. On the other side o this hurricane
there are many more people asking ‘how do we take control of our own
destiny?’ That’s where this text comes in. This is the first time that
we’ve had a blue print, a guide book if you will, for how we advance
our communities on any number of fronts. The book really lays out the
top 10 issues of importance to Black people and tries to provide a
framework for how we can advance our community.”

While the message contained within “The Covenant” is resounding
through the African American community, mainstream media may be forced
to eventually deal with it.

“I wanted to say to, that when books become this big we do sometimes take a second look at them and I think
this is the case where it’s possible where we’ll be doing that,” said
Garner in a return call clarifying his earlier statements. “I can’t
say for sure, but it does influence our decision sometimes where books
catch on with a larger public and I think it’s something we’ll think
hard about.”

“Tavis Smiley has a profound faith in the possibility of everyday,
ordinary Black folk and the Covenant with Black America demonstrates,
illustrates and exemplifies that faith in a way we’ve hardly ever seen
before,” said Glaude. “And what follows will only make our ancestors
smile.”

Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune May 7, 2006

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Recalling Black Men who fought in the Civil War…

 
 
by Bobbi Booker
The Book Report
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, free Blacks and runaway slaves in the North rushed to sign-up with Union armies. Many were told it was a white man’s war and turned away. Two years passed before African-American men got their chance to fight.The background for the formation of Camp William Penn in the present day LaMott section of Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, dates back to July 17, 1862, when Congress amended The Militia Act of 1792. The amendment granted President Washington the autonomy “to employ as many persons of African descent as he may deem necessary for the suppression of the rebellion.” It further stated, “for this purpose, he may organize and use them in such manner as he may judge best for the public welfare.”

Camp William Penn has the unique distinction of being the only military ground set up exclusively to train Black troops, drawing recruits from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. The campsite was located near the present-day Cheltenham Mall and was the largest of 18 Civil War training facilities in the nation.

Comprised of over 10,000 men, 11 regiments of U.S. Colored Troops were trained on the site. The regiments – 3rd, 6th, 8th, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 32nd, 41st, 43rd, and 127th – were the first of African descent, under the authorization for a two-tier compensation system, to receive a $10 monthly service and clothing allotment. Recruits arrived at the campsite June 26, 1863. Many went on to fight in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and elsewhere.

In recent years a missing page from history has revealed that Philadelphia, long known as the nation’s Cradle of Liberty, is also the starting point for the country’s oldest African-American holiday.

Two years prior to Juneteenth, Philadelphia was the first city to host the first African in America Parade in the United States. This parade consisted of several hundred African Americans marching without arms or uniforms in file with drums, carrying inspiring banners as they headed towards the first training site for the troops.

Camp William Penn’s mission was to train Black soldiers to save the Union, free the enslaved and reunite families. The army of Black men played a pivotal role in aiding the Union in its defeat of the Confederate Army. The unit tracked Cmdr. General Robert Lee and contributed to his surrender in Appomattox, Va.

Soldiers from the camp’s 22nd Infantry located and captured President Lincoln’s assassin and conspirators on the Eastern shores of Maryland. After passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, the soldiers went from state to state to free Blacks who, unaware of the bill, were still being held as slaves.

It was those troops that marched to the Alston Villa in Galveston, Texas, and surrounded the Alston Villa on Juneteenth – June 19, 1865. Gen. Gordon Granger took charge of the state of Texas and informed the nation’s last remaining slaves of their freedom, almost two and a half years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrations of Juneteenth began the following year and continue to this day.

The camp was recognized for its vital importance to the Union’s war effort and distinct mission. Lincoln’s decision to encourage African-American enlistment during the Civil War marked a great departure from prior administrations. About 180,000 African Americans served in the Union Army and more than 15,000 joined the Union Navy. The recruits who trained at Camp William Penn served in the Army. The camp was situated on land previously owned by the well-known Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott family, who noted, “The barracks make a show from our back window.”

Many of Camp William Penn’s recruits were decorated for their bravery and valor. The camp closed Aug. 14, 1865.