HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Before there was a state Capitol, there was the eighth ward, and now there is an effort underway to make sure its story is told.
The Capitol Complex is impressive, but when you walk around it, there are signs or markers of what used to be called the eighth ward.
“The old eighth ward began to grow in Pennsylvania as early as 1838,” said Lenwood Sloan, a project organizer.
The eighth ward was home to thousands of people. It was a diverse community, but mostly African American. The ward was cleared by eminent domain to make room to build the Capitol Complex.
“By 1870, they owned significant amounts of land, and as landowners, they had the right to vote because of the 15th Amendment and began to send men to city hall has councilmen. An African American community grew up around the Capitol and was advocating for those votes reached its height with 515 businesses, and 1,100 families and totally disappeared by 1920,” said Sloan.
Efforts continue to find descendants of eighth ward families. A bronze monument will be placed on the K Leroy Irvis lawn on the Capitol Complex, honoring those who lived there.
“‘Our story is about once again, imagining the community and remembering its prosperity of its enterprise and of its service,” said Sloan.
The hope is that the monument will be in place by the fall of 2020.