Universal York

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Party for a Leading African American Citizen of York

One hundred years ago this week the children of the A.M.E. Zion church on East King Street threw a party to celebrate the 72nd birthday of their beloved superintendent of 29 years.

King Street school named for Aquilla Howard
According to the Gazette the children sang and Evelyn Voss, Nellie Page, Norine Berry, and Lacey Johnson all took part in the program.
Refreshments, including a large birthday cake, were served in the Sunday School room, which was decorated with “autumn leaves, chrysanthemums, and fruit.”
Superintendent Howard responded with a five-stanza poem that started out:

“One year ago, with the rising sun,
Fates told me I was seventy-one,
I hardly thought to see the year through–
Today the cards tell me I am seventy and two.”
A free black man when he came to York in 1861, Aquilla Howard’s name is probably best-remembered today for the York City school named for him. Built in 1931, it stood on East King street until it was torn down in the 1960s.
He also carried a wreath onto the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln when it stopped in York in 1865. Howard had joined ladies of the Small family in paying tribute to the martyred President.
According to the Gazette article, Howard had come to York from Marietta. He worked first for John Evans for three years, but then was hired by Philip Small. By the time he was 72, Howard had been employed by the Smalls for 43 years and evidently hadn’t retired yet.
Click here to read about the Small gift to York City schools.