York County, Pa.’s, ‘Civil Rights Heroes – Barrier Breakers’ Mural – Part I
A three-panel traveling mural, on the wall at the York County Heritage Trust’s meeting room, awaits the Saturday, Feb. 27, ‘Reflections of Greatness’ Black History Month events. Stephanie Seaton of the York City Human Relations Commission will describe the people on the murals and a panel of achievers – Judge Marie White Bell, Dr. Julia Hines-Harris, Dr. Dorothy King and Virginia Hunter – will tell about how their neighbors on the 300 block of West Princess Street helped in their development. (See one of the colorful panels below, with a key of those on the murals. (Check out the York County Heritage Trust’s site for event details.) Also of interest: York, Pa., civil rights leader took plunge against discriminatory ban at city pool and An evening to learn about York County, Pa.’s, ‘Civil Rights Heroes – Barrier Breakers’ and All black history posts from the start.
In 2005, Brett Greiman and his Bradley Academy for the Visual Arts student assistants created a mural depicting 18 participants in the civil rights movement in 20th century and early 21st century York County.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News account described the process:
Greiman collected photographs of the people featured in the art, then projected and enlarged the images onto three large sheets of canvas against his home garage wall. The students outlined the images and Greiman painted them. The process took about five months. The art is a monument to people who worked for peace and civil justice, he said.
I wrote brief descriptions for the program for the upcoming “Reflections of Greatness” event. Here they are for those shown in the left panel (the other two panels described in subsequent posts) … .
1- • The Rev. Thomas Montouth — Thomas E. Montouth, a voice for civil rights in York for decades, took over the pastorate of Faith Presbyterian Church in 1928. Within three years, the minister became a charter member of the Crispus Attucks Community Center and served on its board for years. He also was a leader in the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Rev. Montouth led the movement that resulted in the York City School Board building Smallwood and Aquilla Howard schools for black children in 1931.
2- • Dr. Frederick D. Holliday — Frederick Holliday served as superintendent of York City Schools from 1974 to 1981, the district’s first black top administrator. He is credited with instituting programs through private industry to help lower the dropout rate and with establishing an alternative school that gave problem students a chance to graduate. Former York City Councilman Wm. Lee Smallwood believes Holliday transformed the school system. “He turned around not only the image of York schools, but the educational attainments as well,” he said. The city Human Relations Commission holds an annual awards luncheon to commemorate Holliday’s work.
3- • The Rev. Carl Scott — Carl Scott, senior pastor of Bible Tabernacle Church in York, worked in industry as AMF’s — later Harley-Davidson’s — manager of data processing for 16 years. But adding to those two callings, he has headed the Black Ministers Association of York, helped found and later co-captained the York City Police Chaplains Corps and chaired the board of the Saving Station, a community organization that helps those with drug or alcohol dependency. He is one of York’s senior pastors, starting Bible Tabernacle with his wife, Diane, in 1977. When he left his management position in industry to pursue his pastoral calling, Diane recalled, “I cried that day. I was afraid we were going to lose the house.” About which, a newspaper reported, “They didn’t. They gained a church.”
4 – • Lionel Bailey — Lionel Bailey, outreach worker with the Community Progress Council, voiced sharp concern for racial equality in the 1960s. Later that decade, he brought the idea for a Charrette, a type of civic group therapy, to York after participating in such a forum in North Carolina. That multi-day dialogue came after a second summer of rioting on York’s streets and recent violence at William Penn Senior High School. No rioting occurred the summer after the spring 1970 event, which some credit to the Charrette process in which all of York’s communities came together. Bailey played a big role in the forum, serving as Charrette Executive Committee chairman.
5 – • Ocania Chalk — Ocania Chalk, who worked at the York County Assistance Office, represented the radical edge of York’s civil rights movement in the 1960s. “Agitate, agitate, agitate — that’s what we’ve got to do,” he told a rally at Penn Park. “You don’t have a ballot or a representative. You don’t have lawyers or judges or people sitting in City Council. All you’ve got is agitation.” Community leader Ray Crenshaw later said of Chalk: “I liked him. Went to lunch with him, and agreed to disagree. He was very angry and very brilliant.” About Chalk’s message of agitation, Crenshaw said, “This really reverberated all over the community. He expected sudden change. Change, however, comes slow.”
6 – • Maulana Karenga — Maulana Karenga, a former York resident, founded the African heritage and cultural celebration of Kwanzaa in 1966. Karenga, then known as Ron Everett, graduated from William Penn Senior High School in 1958 and went on to receive doctorates from United States International University and the University of Southern California. He became integrally involved in black studies and issues facing black Americans. The seven-day Kwanzaa celebration starts on Dec. 26. The observance marks black cultural unity.
7 & 8 – • Elijah Lambert and Ettie Lambert — Elijah and Ettie Lambert, husband and wife, were known for their community involvement, whether at Faith Presbyterian Church, the Crispus Attucks Community Center or the NAACP. Other key achievements are captured in photographs. One photo from The Gazette and Daily shows Ettie Lambert leading the singing of “We Shall Overcome,” as 300 marchers protested restrictive law enforcement policies in the 1960s in front of York City Hall. The march organizer, the non-radical Peaceful Committee of Immediate Action, became known for its orderly marches in York. A second image shows Elijah and Ettie Lambert in Washington, D.C., in 1963, taking part in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
9 • Wade H. Bowers III — Wade Bowers served as director of music and educational activities at Crispus Attucks Association for years. Longtime York educator Julia Hines-Harris said this about Wade Bowers after his death in 1993: “He sang songs that carried us through. He demanded that we get the best and be the best that we could be.”
The key to the left mural panel.
Sources: York County Heritage Trust Library and Archives; James McClure’s “Almost Forgotten”; James McClure’s blog, Yorktownsquare.com; YDR.com/blackhistory; Jim Kalish’s “The Story of Civil Rights in York, Pennsylvania”; York Branch, AAUW’s, “Legacies: Remembrances of York County Women”; George Shumway’s “Charrette at York, Pa.”; Interview, Wm. Lee Smallwood.