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In Pennsylvania, Racial Analysis shifts focus to roadside historical markers – NBC10 Philadelphia

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Pennsylvania was installed with historic markers for more than a century when racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 brought a new set of questions from the public about whose story is being told. on the state’s curbs – and the language used to tell them.

Increased oversight helped push the Pennsylvania Museums and History Commission to review all 2,500 markers, a process that focuses on factual errors, incomplete historical context, and references. racist or inappropriate.

So far, the state has removed two markers, modified two, and ordered new text for the other two.

Across the country, historic landmarks in some places have become another front in the national reckoning over slavery, racism, and racial violence that have also plagued the statues of the Interior. war and change or revise names of institutions, roads, and geographical features.

The idea that “who is honored, what is remembered, what is remembered tells the story of a society that cannot be reflected in other ways” is behind an effort by the Equity Initiative Equality, based in Birmingham, Alabama, has made dozens of markers, mostly in the South, to remember racial terror incidents.

Diane Turner, curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University in Philadelphia, one of the largest reposits of black history and related documents that can help combat racism systematic.

“By being able to tell people’s stories, it’s good for society as a whole. It’s not to take away anyone else,” Turner said. “Let’s have these stories, because the more truth we have, the better it is.”

At the request of Bryn Mawr University president Kimberly Wright Cassidy, the Pennsylvania historical authority removed a marker from the edge of the campus noting that President Woodrow Wilson briefly taught there. Cassidy’s letter to the committee cited Wilson’s rebuttal comments about the intellectual ability of women and his racist policy on discrimination in the federal workforce.

The commission ordered a change to a marker in suburban Philadelphia, the birthplace of Continental Army Major General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, as it referred to him as an “Indian warrior”. It is also developing a replacement for a marker that was removed from the grounds of the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, on the site of a 19th-century prison, noting that Confederate cavalrymen were being held. there after they were occupied in Ohio during the Civil War.

The state government has lowered a marker in Pittsburgh’s Point State Park, which records the spot from which British General John Forbes won a military victory in 1758 whose marker proclaimed “establishing the supremacy of Anglo-Saxon in the United States.”

The committee also revised markers in Fulton County of central Pennsylvania relating to the movement of Confederate troops after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 and to a Confederate cavalry raid on Chambersburg in 1864 left much of the town a smoldering ruin.

A marker previously described the last Confederates encamped on Pennsylvania soil – since then, the state has added language about their defeat by Union troops. Another marker, about two Confederates killed in a skirmish, was corrected with details of their raid and how Union soldiers from New York killed them and took 32 prisoners.

The changes have generated some political outcry, including from a Republican representative, a appointee on the History and Museums Committee, who wrote in October of his objections. for this initiative.

“I fear that the commission is increasingly becoming a true arbiter of history and more of a scaled-down version of George Orwell’s Department of Truth, in which government officials alter history to fit the wall. convenient techniques of those in charge,” wrote Representative Parke Wentling.

In a report to the commission, a contractor recounted that a Fulton County elected commissioner harassed his team when they removed old markers last year.

And this month, senior Republican press aide in the House, Steve Miskin, responded to a news account of Fulton County markers with a tweet asking: “Is Pennsylvania going to delete ‘The Confederacy’ From Textbooks ‘”

Disputes over how historical markers should be communicated – or whether they should exist – have divided communities in other states in recent years, including in Memphis, Tennessee; Sherman, Texas; and Colfax, Louisiana.

In Pennsylvania, the committee examined all 2,500 markers it controls with a focus on depicting African-American and Native American lives and stories and adopted a new policy on how to set marker. About a year ago, it identified 131 existing markers that might need changing, including a subgroup of 18 that needed immediate attention.

“Language can be sexist, it can be racist, it can be everything else,” said Jacqueline Wiggins, a retired educator from Philadelphia at the state Historical Review Board. together. “There’s work to do.”

Newly approved markers are increasingly telling the stories of previously underrepresented people and groups.

The Commission is providing financial assistance to tickers if their audience is related to women, Hispanics, Latinos, and Asian Americans, or if they talk about black and LGBTQ history. outside of Philadelphia. Last year, the agency subsidized markers on petroglyphs in Clarion County, a camp where Muhammed Ali trained in Schuylkill County and the site of a boycott that halted efforts to segregate the school. study in Chester County.

New markers approved in March include the state’s first significant workforce of Chinese immigrants at a cutlery factory, the co-founder of one of the brother societies. The country’s first black child and three Ephrata women were among the nation’s first recorded female composers.

Marks associated with Native Americans often define the Natives in terms of the Europeans who displaced them, such as the Juniata County marker of “a stockpile built circa 1755 to protect settlers from the Indians.”

Historian Ira Beckerman, who recently launched a study focusing on markers in Pennsylvania related to the history of black people and black Indians, said: who initiated which battle or engagement. “If the settlers started it, it was a battle and therefore worth it. If the Native Americans responded in kind, it was a massacre, barbarism, etc.”

Beckerman concluded that overall, the state’s 348 Native American historic landmarks “tell a fairly accurate and compelling story of racism and white nationalism.”

https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/in-pa-racial-reckoning-turns-focus-to-roadside-historical-markers/3089502/ In Pennsylvania, Racial Analysis shifts focus to roadside historical markers – NBC10 Philadelphia

Aila Slisco

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