The Franklin County Visitors Bureau is hosting its annual African American History Is American History presentation on Saturday, February 22, at the 11/30 Visitors Center. The event begins at 1 PM in the second-level Great Room of the 11/30 Visitors Center. The 2020 installment of African American History Is American History focuses on Underground Railroad to USCT (United States Colored Troops).
Franklin County’s location on the Mason Dixon Line attracted many freedom seekers from 1830 to 1860. It was during this time that the anti-slavery movement gained momentum and became known as the Underground Railroad. In addition to being just over the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, Franklin County is situated in the central area of the Great Appalachian Valley and offered the protection of forests and caves. It was a key passageway on the Road to Freedom. Franklin County, also, offered opportunities in farming and labor for freedom seekers to have a livelihood.
Out of location, landscape, and livelihood, a sizeable African American population rooted in Franklin County. The Mercersburg area African American population was the largest. The Kerrstown area of Chambersburg was another sizeable population as well as areas adjoining the Caledonia Ironworks of Thaddeus Stevens.
By July 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the confiscation Act and Militia Act, emancipating slaves of the Confederacy in Union-controlled territory and allowing persons of African descent to participate in the military and Navy. Franklin County African American population answered the call and joined the USCT. Today, the county’s and the country’s USCT are interred in three local cemeteries—Mount Vernon, Zion Union, and Locust Grove. The presentation will conclude with an optional visit to the graves of USCT at Mount Vernon Cemetery.
Complimenting Saturday’s presentation is the “Beauty of Diversity” exhibit, displayed in the 11/30 Visitors Center lobby and presented in conjunction with regional photographer Phillip Whitely. African American History Is American History is a free event. Register here.