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“It’ll Take an Army” Franco’s Italian Army Fifty Years Later

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The Tuskegee Airmen

  Photo of William A. Johnston. Johnston grew up in Sewickley, Pa. He enlisted in the Army Air Force at the age of 17 and served as a Second Lieutenant with the 15th Air Force of the 332nd Fighter Group of the Tuskegee Army Air Corps from 1944 to the end of the war. Following…

The Crawford Grill

  Crawford Grill #2, c. 1975. From the McBride Sign Company Photographs, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center. The Crawford Grill in Pittsburgh’s Hill District served as the epicenter of jazz music from the 1930s through the 1950s. Located on the corner of Crawford Street and Wylie Avenue, the club was founded in…

The James A. Dorsey Story

  For many people, time off from work or school is an opportunity to engage in physical activity, whether it’s hunting and fishing, enjoying swings on a playground, or a pick-up game with friends. Pittsburgher James A. Dorsey had a passion for sports and recreational activities as well, and he devoted his life to sharing…

Rare Martin Delany Signed Document

At the height of the movement to rid the nation of slavery – the abolitionist movement – Martin R. Delany was one of the more charismatic and practical leaders of the time. Delany was born free to a free mother, Pati, in Charles Town, Va. in 1812. His father, Samuel, was enslaved. Pati was literate…

Celebrate African American History at the History Center

  The Heinz History Center’s African American Program is dedicated to the preservation, dissemination, and interpretation of the life, history, and culture of Africans and African Americans in Western Pennsylvania. Here are just 10 of the many artifacts from the African American collection. Anti-slavery pitcher, made by E. Ridgeway & Abington, Hanley, England, c. 1853.…

Breaking Down Barriers: Paul Lawrence Peeler and the Pittsburgh Public Schools

Viola used by Paul Lawrence Peeler, Sr., as a music teacher in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Like many other major American city school districts, Pittsburgh’s public school system has a history of discrimination against African American educators. Unlike its recent history during the post-World War II era, Pittsburgh Public Schools held a de facto restriction against…

A Jazz Legacy: Mary Lou Williams

Portrait of Mary Lou Williams, New York, N.Y., c. 1946. Photo by William P. Gottlieb, courtesy of the Library of Congress. As an American jazz hub during the 1930s, Pittsburgh propelled one musician to break jazz’s all-male barrier and become one of the most innovative artists of all time. Raised in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood,…

Tools of Oppression: Cotton Cards

Mary Ann Carlton (1839-1921), a former slave, used cotton cards to contribute to the sharecropping of her family. In the late 18th century, American citizens knew that the road to financial success was largely due to slavery and the new nation went about it aggressively. The post American Revolution period witnessed a dramatic increase in…

Camp James Weldon Johnson

Page from a Camp Johnson pamphlet, 1953. Camp Johnson Records, 1939-1995, MSS 229, Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center. In the early 20th century, “fresh air” camps began sprouting up outside of cities across the U.S. In Western Pennsylvania, camps such as the Emma Farm in Harmony and the Salvation Army Camp in West View…