York Town Square

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‘An Evening With William Goodridge’ in York, Pa.

John V. Jezierski’s “Enterprising Images, The Goodridge Brothers, African-American Photographers, 1847-1922″ is the most comprehensive look yet at William C. Goodridge and his family. Background posts: Underground Railroad expert: ‘We cannot alter past ignorance, but we can resolve not to repeat it’ and York’s Goodridge House listed as site on Underground Railroad network and Research needed to unearth Underground Railroad in York County – Part I.

The evening is billed as an interactive time with ex-slave-turned-businessman William C. Goodridge played by former-York-City-Councilman-turned-living-historian Wm. Lee Smallwood.
The audience will get the chance to interact with Goodridge from 6-8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 20, at the York County Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market St.
And so will I.
I’m slated to interview him as part of the evening… .

Actually, this is the second time Mr. Goodridge and I have interacted. He attended an speech I gave about a year ago as part of festivities observing the Emancipation Proclamation.
I engaged him several times during that speech, and he answered the questions in character.
Now, I have an opportunity to spend more time with him, and that should be fun.
Lee Smallwood, schooled in local history for years, does a wonderful job bringing Goodridge to life. In fact, Smallwood, in period costume, is part of a growing living history movement evident in York County in recent years. That program, growing out of the York County Heritage Trust among other sponsors, is yet another way the community is deploying to teach local history.
Maybe Mr. Goodridge will answer the question that, in my opinion, has never been adequately answered.
How could a man of color do business, often successfully, for decades in 19th-century York? Not only was he a retail businessman, but he ran a rail line, and his home is certified to have been part of the Underground Railroad.
What was it about his personality and abilities that gave him such traction?
I’ll ask him on Friday.