Price­less con­tri­bu­tions

The Times-Tribune - - EDITORIAL -

Ed­i­tor: Ku­dos to Gly­nis Johns and San­dra Bur­gette Miller for their out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to Black His­tory Month.

Johns’ Black Scran­ton Project tells the story of African-amer­i­cans in our city dur­ing the 19th and 20th cen­turies. I was sad­dened, but not sur­prised, to hear about ram­pant dis­crim­i­na­tion in hous­ing and em­ploy­ment that con­tin­ued into the 20th cen­tury. Blacks were forced to live in mis­er­able con­di­tions down­town and the only jobs they could find were me­nial and paid poorly.

On the bright side, I learned about Ge­orge W. Brown and his wife, Louise, who started the largest truck­ing com­pany in east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia in 1882. There was Lin­coln Till­man, Scran­ton’s first black fire­fighter, who saved count­less lives in his 52-year ca­reer. Ge­orge Jones be­came Scran­ton’s first black mail car­rier in 1894 when few blacks could read and write.

These are sto­ries Johns shares with her au­di­ence. If not for her ef­forts, this part of our his­tory would have been lost.

When San­dra Bur­gette Miller asked rel­a­tives about her fam­ily’s his­tory, she was told, “We come from Waverly.” Not sat­is­fied with that, she be­gan a re­search project and dis­cov­ered that in 1848 her great great-grand­fa­ther, Thomas Bur­gette, fled the south and rode the Un­der­ground Rail­road un­til he reached the safety of Waverly. Bur­gette was one of sev­eral slaves that res­i­dents of Waverly wel­comed. Miller was so moved by her an­ces­tor’s brav­ery that she wrote a book, “Tell’ em,” to in­spire other African Amer­i­cans. She later turned her book into a play, “Tell’ em, One Man’s Strug­gle from Slav­ery to Waverly, PA.”

Johns and Miller have made a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to Scran­ton’s his­tor­i­cal record. They are truly pas­sion­ate about the his­tory of African-amer­i­cans in North­east Penn­syl­va­nia and share their find­ings so we can all learn from the past.


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