African-American History

Photo by John Ford / Courtesy of William Marshall

It’s one of America’s oldest holidays, and among its most historically resonant: On June 19, 1865, the last enslaved African Americans learned they were emancipated. Juneteenth has been celebrated every year since, and 46 states and the District of Columbia now recognize the holiday – including, as of just weeks ago, Pennsylvania.

This year’s Juneteenth is also notable for other reasons, said William Marshall, who has organized the weekend of activities since 2013; he's also the founder of local advocacy group Stop the Violence.

Photo courtesy of Edda L. Fields-Black

Critics say the history of slavery in the U.S. is poorly understood. Even less well known is the complex story of the rice plantations of South Carolina and Georgia.

Those “low-country” plantations were a big source of wealth in early America. And according to Edda L. Fields-Black, a history professor at Carnegie Mellon University, the farming technology that grew the crops was largely developed in West Africa -- and then imported to the American South by captive Africans.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.

Mark Clayton Southers owes much of the inspiration for his theater career to an unimpeachable source: August Wilson. It was listening to the Pittsburgh-born Pulitzer Prize winner lecture in South Africa in 1998 that led Southers – then a thirtysomething steel-mill worker and stage actor – to try his hand at writing.