York Town Square

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York’s Crispus Attucks Center had intriguing start

I’ve run across some interesting stuff in preparing a series of vignettes telling the larger story of York’s Crispus Attucks Association.
First, I didn’t know other Crispus Attucks groups existed at the time of the local center’s founding. Lancaster, for example, had such a center named after the martyr – a black man – who died with four others in the Boston Massacre, in the years leading up to the American Revolution.
And I had never heard the genesis of York’s CA center. Before the center was founded in 1931, two struggling charitable groups were devoted to the needs of the black community. That community was growing because Southerners were coming north for jobs in pre-Depression America.

In 1930, York’s Welfare Federation, a forerunner to the United Way, called in New Yorker Dr. Ernest T. Attwell to bring The Community House and the Emergency Girls Club together.
Dr. Attwell was a black man who served as field director of the New York-based Playground and Recreation Association of America. One of his jobs was to pull together weaker organizations into one solid group.
That’s what he did, and CA had a ribbon-cutting for its first center in a two-story building formerly housing York Hospital’s nurses. The official address was 18 West College, at Oak Lane.
That also marked the opening of two segregated elementary buildings — Smallwood and Aquilla Howard schools.
So the Depression-era year of 1931 — 75 years ago — holds importance to York’s community.
I was thinking of these things at the annual meeting of the York County Community Against Racism on Saturday. The relatively new group is working toward “Building a Community that Understands, Appreciates, and Respects Racial, Economic and Cultural Diversity.”
The meeting was held at the impressive Crispus Attucks Community Center, celebrating its 75th birthday this year.