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York, Pa.: ‘It’s a midsize city with an interesting history’

In 2005, Hershey Foods made limited-edition York Pink Patties – York Peppermint Patties with a pink center – in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. At one time, the candy was made in York, of course. But no more. But it is still used as a reference point about York. Background posts: Don’t know much about York County history?, Was York’s surrender justified? and Events in 1777 helped tip Revolution toward patriots

Michele Norris is a National Public Radio interviewer who has helped to deliver four conversations with York countians about the 2008 presidential election.
Those conversations, titled: ‘The York Project: Race & The ’08 Vote’, are adding insight about America’s views on this year’s presidential race.
On the NPR Web site, Norris explains why York was chosen… .

It’s brief and included here with links for context.
Because it’s always interesting to see what those outside county borders say about York County.
Her views were concise and on target, avoiding curious characterizations you often see in the national media. One that sometimes pops up is that York County is hardscrabble. I’m not sure what that means, but it doesn’t seem to square with the bucolic – albeit sprawl-challenged – countryside that makes up so much of York County.
Anyway, here goes:

We chose York, Pa., as the site for this discussion. Pennsylvania is an important battleground state, and York is in the center of it. And it’s a two-hour drive from our Washington studios.
It’s a midsize city with an interesting history. During the Revolutionary War, York served as the fledgling nation’s temporary capital. The Articles of Confederation were drafted and adopted in York. It was also a major stop for escaped slaves trying to find their way north on the Underground Railroad.
Over time, the city became a major manufacturing center. And while heavy industry has been closing elsewhere in Pennsylvania, factories in the York area produce barbells, Harley Davidson motorcycles, air conditioners and animal crackers. They also roast Starbucks coffee. And if you were wondering — yes, it was once home to York Peppermint Patties, though the company was bought by neighboring Hershey years ago.
York also has a history of strained race relations. In 1969, the city suffered through 10 days of racial riots. The violence claimed two victims: a white police officer named Henry Schaad and a young black minister’s daughter named Lillie Belle Allen.
The wounds from that era were inflamed again more recently. In 2001, two black men were arrested and charged with the murder of Henry Schaad. That same year, the mayor of York and several other white men were arrested in connection with Lillie Belle Allen homicide. Witnesses testified that then-Mayor Charlie Robertson had given ammunition to whites during the York riots when he served as a city police officer. Robertson was acquitted. Two other men were convicted of murder, and six others pleaded guilty in Allen’s killing.

Today, blacks and Latinos make up 40 percent of York’s 41,000 residents. In recent elections, the city has leaned toward Democrats. The surrounding suburbs are less diverse and a conservative stronghold.