#400yearsPA: Social media campaign will highlight black history as U.S. observes slavery anniversary

    McAllister's Mill Historic Marker in Gettysburg. .(Jimmy Emerson, DVM/Flickr)

    Between now and February 2020, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission will use the hashtag #400yearsPA to highlight moments in black history as the U.S. observes the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in America.

    The year 1619 was not the first year Africans, “both free and enslaved,” could be found in North America. But the arrival of a ship carrying enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony is considered a pivotal moment in American history and the slave trade, a system that, as Mary Elliott and Jazmine Hughes write for the New York Times’ 1619 Project, “was commercialized, racialized and inherited.”

    During a press call Tuesday, Commission Executive Director Andrea Lowery said the social media project will highlight some of the existing 229 historical markers that commemorate black Pennsylvanians and black history.

    “These historical accounts will include both well-known and lesser-known people, places and themes,” according to a press release.

    On Tuesday’s call, Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said the campaign “is part of a larger fabric that’s being created all around the country.” He cited the Times’ 1619 Project, saying it “forces other communities to contribute and add on and complement a larger body of work that’s been done and can grow to make sure we recognize the black presence in this country and to recognize it is as foundational.”

    He added that opening up the conversation to social media will allow others to “raise up other significant events” that may be unrecognized.

    “We’re eager to use this as a conversational tool,” Lowery said.

    Lowery said the Commission is accepting new marker nominations until Dec. 1 and encouraged people to submit ones tied to black history. New #400yearsPA social media posts should arrive each Tuesday on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin.

    Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.

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