Local teacher addresses Cheltenham’s Civil War history in book
In the area of Willow and Sycamore avenues in the La Mott section of Cheltenham Township, history has left its imprint. This location is where Camp William 3Hnn VWRRG — WhH fiUVW IHGeral training camp for black Union soldiers during the Civil War.
“This all happened in our backyard and our students, and students nationally, don’t know that 11,000 [black soldiers] were trained and went on to help win the CLYLO :DU,” VDLG EONLnV 3DUN School social studies teacher Lise Marlowe July 8. “When you read the history books, these men don’t get any credit. It’s frustrating.”
In a quest to educate students about their local history, Marlowe self-published a children’s book last year WLWOHG “FUHGHULcN DRuJODVV’ Dream” about Camp William Penn.
Douglass, a former slave turned social reformer and writer, dreamed one day bODcN PHn wRuOG fiJhW alongside their white counterparts in the war. He tried to convince President Abraham Lincoln to allow black PHn WR fiJhW, buW LLncROn refused, claiming it would cause chaos in the battlefiHOG, 0DUORwH VDLG.
However, as the Civil War continued and the Confederacy gained momentum over Union soldiers, LincROn VLJnHG WhH EPDncLSDtion Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, whLch wDV D VLJnLficant turning point in the war. Not only did this declaration pronounce that all slaves
were free, but it granted the newly freed men the ability to fight in the U.S. military. This fulfilled the long awaited dream of Douglass, she said.
A few months later, on July 4, 1863, Camp William Penn in La Mott opened on land owned by Quaker and social activist Lucretia Mott. The Mott Family leased the land to the federal government for $1, Marlowe said.
“I wanted to make sure kids knew this history and change the fact that it’s not in our history books,” she said.
Marlowe spent three years working on the book, making sure the content was historically accurate but kid- friendly. The nonfiction book is about 20 pages in length, and since Marlowe is a sixth- grade social studies teacher, the book is written on a sixth- grade reading level with lots of important facts about the camp, as well as historical photos.
Marlowe, who grew up in Cheltenham, said she didn’t realize this historical site was in her community, until she came across an old La Mott poster in the teachers’ lounge that contained information about Camp William Penn back in 2004.
“There I was a social studies teacher for 10 years in Cheltenham [at the time], and I didn’t realize this [site existed],” she said. “I decided I needed to do something.”
Several years prior to writing the book, Marlowe and her students created a 65- minute documentary where they interviewed Camp William Penn soldier descendents and created a 50- page book and a mural, which hangs in the La Mott Community Center with a $ 1,200 grant from a local parent organization. In 2006, their work was recognized when Marlowe was the recipient of The History Channel’s Save Our History: Teacher of the Year Award for creating the project. She had the opportunity to visit the White House, where she received her award from former first lady Laura Bush, as well as a $ 5,000 grant for additional historical preservation projects. She was also honored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for her work.
“Frederick Douglass’ Dream” has been donated to several public libraries and school libraries in Cheltenham. It can also be purchased by visiting h t t p : / / l i s e marlowe326. wix. com/ camp- williampenn.
“I want to make sure everyone appreciates the sacrifices these African American [ soldiers made] for all of our freedom and to be proud to live in Cheltenham,” she said. “This is all of our history.”
Elkins Park School teacher Lise Marlowe was recognized with The History Channel’s Save Our History: Teacher of the Year Award in 2006 for a series of historical projects about Camp William Penn in La Mott, Cheltenham.
An Elkins Park School sixth-grade teacher wrote about Camp William Penn, a training camp for black soldiers during the Civil War, in a children’s book.