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WATCH: PA Local discusses the history of Harrisburg’s Old 8th Ward

by Spotlight PA Staff |

Pennsylvania’s state capitol building in Harrisburg, on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022.
Amanda Berg / For Spotlight PA

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Before Harrisburg’s Capitol Park was the workplace for hundreds of Pennsylvania lawmakers and their staffers, its 45 acres comprised the 8th Ward, an area that was the center of Harrisburg’s Black, Jewish, and immigrant neighborhoods in the late 19th century.

The 8th Ward contained churches, synagogues, restaurants, and homes. Educators and abolitionists brushed shoulders with business owners and workers. It was a bustling community.

But by the mid-twentieth century, it was gone, its residents pushed to other parts of the city or state.

Harrisburg’s Gamut Theatre Group and the Sankofa African American Theater Company are some of the groups keeping the memory of the neighborhood alive. Voices of the Eighth Chronicles II: Stories from Harrisburg’s Old 8th Ward, a recent play by the company, shares some of this forgotten history.

On Thursday, Feb. 23 Spotlight PA held a free panel on Harrisburg’s 8th Ward, the residents who once called it home, and the groups making sure it’s remembered. Watch the conversation below.

Our panelists were:

  • Colin Deppen, newsletter editor, Spotlight PA

  • Sharia Benn, playwright and artistic director, Sankofa African American Theater Company.

  • Lenwood Sloan, CEO, Commonwealth Monument Project.

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