Throughout the month of February, we celebrate the rich heritage and contributions of the Black community in Pennsylvania's Americana Region.  Let's honor the stories, achievements, and culture not only this month but all year long. We encourage you to support Black-owned businesses, explore historical landmarks, and attend events that amplify Black voices this year! 

Hopewell furnace in the snow

Richard Webb

Hopewell Furnace

At the establishment of Hopewell Furnace, businessman Mark Bird enslaved the most persons in Berks County, profiting from the enslaved labor of men, women, and children. Their story is believed to be connected to themes of oppression, defiance, and determination.

Fortunately, in 1780, an abolition act was passed, ordering a gradual emancipation for enslaved persons. The African American community was growing in Pennsylvania, leading many to be hired at Hopewell Furnace as woodcutters, laborers, and teamsters, earning equal wages. In 1856, the Mount Frisby African Methodist Episcopal Church was established, and it is believed to have been used as a stop on the Underground Railroad, although there is no documented evidence. 

Although we do not know much about the lives of African Americans at Hopewell Furnace, we can appreciate and pay tribute to their memory by visiting the site where a once-thriving community helped fuel the iron industry in Berks County.  

Exhibits at the Reading Public Museum 

Danny Lyon Exhibit at the Reading Public Museum

Courtesy of Reading Public Museum

Danny Lyon: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement

January 13 - May 12, 2024


A giant of post-war documentary photography and film, Brooklyn, NY native Danny Lyon helped define a mode of photojournalism in which the picture-maker is deeply and personally embedded in his subject matter. A self-taught photographer and a graduate of the University of Chicago, Lyon began his photographic career in the early 1960s as the first staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a national group of college students who joined together after the first sit-in by four African American college students at a North Carolina lunch counter. From 1963 to 1964, Lyon traveled the South and Mid-Atlantic regions, documenting the Civil Rights Movement.  The photographs were published in The Movement, a documentary book about the Southern Civil Rights Movement, and later in Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, Lyon’s own memoir of his years working for the SNCC.

Ayana Ross Exhibit Reading Public Museum

Courtesy of Reading Public Museum


Ayana Ross: Whence You Came

February 17 - June 2, 2024


The Reading Public Museum is pleased to present an engaging body of recent work by Atlanta-area contemporary figurative painter Ayana Ross (born 1977). Ross’s subjects are everyday figures which are inspired by the events in her family’s own history in the American South. The artist captures poignant, sometimes nostalgic, moments that address broader issues of identity, race, family, and memory. Her large-scale compositions often include monumental figures and bold graphic fields of pattern and color. The exhibition at RPM will include more than a dozen of her recent canvases.

NAACP Reading

Courtesy of NAACP Reading

Reading NAACP 

"The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination."

"The history of the NAACP, is one of blood sweat and tears. From bold investigations of mob brutality, protests of mass murders, segregation and discrimination, to testimony before congressional committees on the vicious tactics used to bar African Americans from the ballot box, it was the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society. While much of its history is chronicled in books, articles, pamphlets and magazines, the true movement lies in the faces---black, white, yellow, red, and brown---united to awaken the conscientiousness of a people, and a nation. This is the legacy of the NAACP!" -Via Reading NAACP