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Many thanks for the Post-Gazette's in-depth discussion of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The essays by David Shribman and Frank Reeves were superb, as was Tony Norman's insightful commentary. I especially appreciated your attention to the local and regional dimensions of this historic event.
I would like to add that Pittsburghers were among those who pressed Lincoln to issue the Proclamation and who took advantage of the opportunities it provided, and that local African-Americans played a leading role in this powerful abolitionist movement.
Resistance to slavery, including the Underground Railroad, thrived in Pittsburgh. Of interest is the figure of Martin Delany, for a time co-editor (with Frederick Douglass) of the influential North Star. Nearly 1,000 blacks from Western Pennsylvania served in the Grand Army of the Republic, and Lincoln appointed Delany as its first black commissioned officer.
Opposition to the Confederacy and all it stood for was not confined to Pittsburgh's black community. In fact, the nation's first act of resistance to Southern secession occurred at the Allegheny Arsenal in Dec. 24, 1860, when an assembly of thousands blocked a shipment of artillery to the South after lobbying efforts had failed.
Actor, historian, and playwright Wali Jamal performs wonderful theatrical depictions of Martin Delany. See also: Mike Stout's moving song about Delany, and "Fields of Freedom: United States Colored Troops from Southwestern Pennsylvania" by Ron Gancas (Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, 2004). Charles McCollester's comprehensive "The Point of Pittsburgh" (Battle of Homestead Foundation, 2008) provides excellent references.
The writer is a board member of the Battle of Homestead Foundation.
First Published January 13, 2013 12:00 am