Posted: 01/04/2023

Black History Month

February marks the start of Black History Month — a month designated to celebrate and honor the countless contributions, achievements, and sacrifices the African American people have made to our country throughout history.

Lancaster City is home to a Black community with deep, historic roots and invites all visitors and locals alike to celebrate Black History Month by learning more about our Black community members and their culture, supporting Black artists, supporting Black-owned businesses, and lifting up Black voices.

Important links to Lancaster’s African American heritage can be found throughout the city, in the form of historic buildings, monuments, and museums. To learn more about this heritage and pay homage to influential African Americans in the area, we've gathered some of the top landmarks and events to add to your itinerary during Black History Month.

Churches

Lancaster is home to a number of historic African American churches. Some founded over 200 years ago, these historic sites played a significant role in the abolition of slavery as well as the Underground Railroad and many continue to flourish to this day.


Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church | 31 S Duke Street #1, Lancaster PA
Established in 1730 this historic church is home to the oldest congregation in Lancaster and ministered to both enslaved and free black families.

Saint James Episcopal Church | 119 N Duke Street, Lancaster PA
This historic location, established in 1744, once ministered to people of African descent, whether free or enslaved, as well as slave owners and abolitionists. In 1817, some African-American members left to establish a separate house of worship in Lancaster that became known as the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church | 450-512 East Strawberry Street, Lancaster PA
Originally home to an African Methodist Episcopal faith community, this historic church diverged from its established congregation to create one of the first African churches in Lancaster. Supporting freedom seekers, several key members of the congregation took great personal risks to assist those escaping slavery in the Underground Railroad circa 1820 -1860.

Ebenezer Baptist Church | 701 North Lime Street, Lancaster PA
Not the oldest church on this list organized by African Americans but it is similarly rich with history. The church was organized in 1900 and has been a driving force for uplifting the community in Lancaster for over a century.

Museums and Cultural Centers


Christiana Underground Railroad Center - Historic Zerchers Hotel, 11 Green Street, Christiana, PA
This free, publicly accessible historical site tracing the steps of those involved in the Underground Railroad, located at the Zercher’s hotel, pictured above.

The Crispus Attucks Community Center - 407 Howard Ave, Lancaster, PA
The Crispus Attucks Community Center’s mission is to improve the quality of life by empowering youth and families in Lancaster by offering services that promote community prosperity, physical and mental health; and by providing programs and events which preserve the African American heritage and cultural identity.

African American Historical Society of South Central Pennsylvania

This Historical Society is a great resource to find information on African American history from the past and the present in Lancaster County. They offer guided by volunteers or self-guided walking tours that will allow you to visit historic sites, including sites that were connected to the Underground Railroad.

YWCA – Lancaster
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110 N. Lime Street, Lancaster, PA
Another great resource for all members, especially black members of Lancaster County. YWCA focuses on inclusion for all and strives for diversity and representation of all communities in Lancaster County. They are dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, juice, freedom and dignity.

Notable African Americans Throughout Lancaster’s History

African American Lancastrians have made history over the years as visionary civic leaders, activists, athletes and entrepreneurs.


James Clendenin - A free African tradesman, James Clendenin was selected by his community to organize the creation of a church

William Payne - businessman, chef, and restaurateur, William G. Payne was born enslaved in Virginia. Later, after founding a successful catering company in Philadelphia, Payne moved to Lancaster and opened the Lancaster Kitchen & Caterers' Supply Company, which he owned and operated from 1906 to 1914.

Lydia Smith - Confidant and property manager to Thaddeus Stevens, Lydia Hamilton Smith played an important role in the Underground Railroad in Lancaster, sacrificing her own safety to provide shelter and protections for freedom seekers at the Steven’s property in downtown Lancaster.

Barney Ewell - Ewell was the state’s greatest high school sprinter-jumper in the mid-1930s, one of the world's leading sprinters in the 40s and went on to win both an Olympic gold medal and two silver medals. Ewell spent his formative years running track at McCaskey High School and later in life resided in Lancaster until his death in 1996.

Nelson Polite - The Polite family has roots in Lancaster dating all the way back to 1903! Each Polite man before Nelson did create things for the Lancaster community, Nelson was just the same. He launched the first African American Boy Scout troop in Lancaster, served in the Bethel AME Church and sat on the Lancaster City Council.


To read more about notable Black History authors featured during Black History month at Midtown Scholar Bookstore: https://www.midtownscholar.com/

Tours and Historic Landmarks


African American Walking Tour
Download a copy of the African American Heritage Map and Guide, take a self-guided walking tour and visit 24 historic sites throughout Lancaster.

The Lancaster History and Craft Beer Walk
Take a tour with LoKal Experiences to commemorate Black History Month. The Lancaster History and Craft Beer Walk takes you to many influential landmarks including the Stevens & Smith Historic Site for an up-close look at the history of Lancaster brought to life through stories, characters, and architecture. Tie history and beer together for an experience you won't forget!

Photo Shoot in Downtown Lancaster!
Unique Lancaster Experiences offers many tours but this one allows you see the beautiful architecture of Downtown Lancaster while taking in its rich history and most importantly getting your photo taken in front of these landmarks! Not only is this an amazing experience, but it is also owned and operated by a black woman!

Events


We The People First Fridays Presents: Celebrating African-American History Month with Birds Flyin’ High

When: February 3, 2023
Where: The Ware Center
Cost: Free

This live performance is an ode to Nina Simone and her farewell tour. When challenge meets destiny, we learn about some of Nina’s peaks and valleys on her path to being one of the greatest performers and activists of our time.

Sanctuary Road

When: February 3 & 5, 2023
Where
: Gardner Theatre at Lancaster Country Day School
Cost
: $30

Sanctuary Road is an opera based on the writings of William Still, a conductor for the Underground Railroad, who helped almost 800 slaves escape to freedom and who meticulously and passionately documented many of their lives in his memoir, The Underground Railroad Records.

First Friday

When: February 3rd, 2023
Where: Esoarts @ 6pm
Cost: Free

Black Artist Waystation. Music, Poetry, and Spoken word.

One Night in Miami…

When: February 7th, 2023 @ 6pm
Where: Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse
Cost: $5- $50

In celebration of Black History Month, 6PM each Tuesday in February, Chris Ballentine in collaboration with Zoetropolis, we will present a curated film series. Night one of our Black History Month Film Series! In the aftermath of Cassius Clay’s defeat of Sonny Liston in 1964, the boxer meets with Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown to change the course of history in the segregated South. Special “Pay What You Want” price for tickets!

A Celebration of the Evolution of Black Music

When: February 11, 2023
Where: The Ware Center
Cost: $25

A dynamic local group featuring a five-piece band and eight vocal artists, Jeannette and T.H.E.M. will walk through the evolution of Black music starting with African drumming and going through the decades and timelines of various genres leading up to present day music.

Black History Month on Screen: Till & The Woman King

When: February 11th & 25th, 2023
Where: Lancaster Public Library
Cost: Free

Join us for a screening and discussion of two critically acclaimed films in honor of Black History Month. Introduction and discussion will be facilitated by the Lancaster Branch of the NAACP.
This program will take place INDOORS. Masks are no longer required inside the library. We encourage all staff members and visitors who wish to continue wearing masks to please do so.⁠ We expect all patrons to be respectful of others’ choices regarding mask-wearing. Register in advance.

Harriet

When: February 14th, 2023 @ 6pm
Where: Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse
Cost: $5-$50

Night two of our Black History Month Film Series! The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. Special “Pay What You Want” price for tickets!

Moonlight

When: February 21th, 2023 @ 6pm
Where: Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse
Cost: $5-$50

Night 3 of our Black History Month Film Series! The tender, heartbreaking story of a young man’s struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality. Special “Pay What You Want” ticket pricing!

Of Light and Legacy

When: February 2 - 24th, 2023
Where: The Ware Center
Cost: Free

Celebrate African American History Month with an exhibit of a variety of mediums from several local emerging artists. Some works will be part of an interactive hands-on exhibit.

Black History Month 2023: Celebrating Black Composers and Black Poets

When: February 25th, 2023
Where: New Creation United Methodist Church
Cost: Free

This program will educate and entertain people of all backgrounds about the rich contributions of Black composers and poets to American culture. Featuring student performers alongside professional musicians and poets, this family friendly program will delight people of all ages

U Street Media Presents: Room Of Rhyme

When: February 25th, 2023
Where: Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse
Cost: $25

Room of Rhyme is a place of artistic expression, emotion and poetry. On this night there will be live paintings done on stage while each spoken word artist performs their pieces. So what you’ll witness at the Room of Rhyme is a space where people can express themselves through, rhyme, rhythm and genius level talent. Art will be available to the public who attend as well.

Alice

When: February 28th, 2023 @ 6pm
Where: Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse
Cost: $5-$50

Alice spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom. After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul, Alice flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering the year is actually 1973.

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Gettysburg landmark in Lancaster PA

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Stevens Smith Historical Site in Lancaster County, PA

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