Mosaic project and Steelton Community

Having the pleasure of being part of the first several Mosaic projects that involved the Borough of Steelton community members, I was able to witness the eagerness of the selected community members who wanted to share their stories. Everyone that was asked agreed to be interviewed, ages to over 100 years old (Mrs. Brannock) Everyone shared their stories which mesmerized the oral history interviewer. The participants shared stories of working in the Bethlehem Steel Company, the local quarry, and the brick yard. The participants spoke of being a domestic, working labor jobs and sending their children to school with the hopes of getting a good education in the Hygienic School for Colored Children. The young high school students received the opportunity to gather information of their parents and or grandparents and were able to get a better understanding of their family lives and the importance of how it related to the church that they attended. This connection with the college helped to expose the young high school students to college life, not only to learn how to gather oral history but to expose them to the Dickinson college students. This exposure helped young people reach beyond high school and understand why the subject they were learning was of importance.

This program also gave more validity to the once overgrown and forgotten historic Midland Cemetery and why it was important to save the cemetery from destruction that holds the bodies of slaves, United States Colored Troops, Buffalo Soldiers, men of World War I and II and many members of the community. Some of the elders shared stories about the famous (in their minds) people that once lived on their streets which included the first ministers and civic minded people that helped shape the African American community in the early 1900's. Many of them buried at Midland Cemetery. The Mosaic program is invaluable. It allowed the community and me to have a voice to tell our stories. Having participated in the first Mosaic that focused on the Ethnic Labor Relations, I was asked and happily accepted the invitation to assist with the second Mosaic in Steelton focusing on the African American history that was not spoken of in the community or elsewhere. My focus with Dickinson College was to make sure that the professors would get their students interested in seeking the hidden history of the people by interviewing and documenting their words on paper and on tape. I was able to direct the student to eager people ready to tell their stories. Many of the people had a connection to the Midland Cemetery and did not realize how their story told history, such as the Buffalo Soldier or Mr. Fields who broke ground for the Monumental AME Church who once was enslaved and had been their neighbor. I can still hear Mr. Carelock saying that he did not know that some Buffalo Soldiers lived in the area. Mr. Carelock was in his seventies at that time of discovery. This proves that any age can learn something new about the person next door. This project also brought community, churches and organizations together on the hidden history of the African American in Steelton.

I was able to participate at the Oral History Association Conference in New Orleans to share the experience of the overall project. The panel discussion allowed me to share my experience of matching interviewees to interviewers and why the student had a great experience to sit with and direct a senior citizen who may not have been accustomed to being quizzed. The student found that if they gave a key question then it was hard to get the senior to stop talking. Some students reported that they would be with the interviewee for hours with enjoyment. Prior to the project, many of the residents had never been asked to speak about their life or experience in Steelton and the surrounding areas. The Mosaic program added value to their lives to know that they, the community members' participants, contributed to American history (not just African American history) but to share the accomplishments of the Dickinson College students. To this day I am still in contact with some of the students…the bond is ongoing. To look back at the experience is awesome knowing that their stories are documented, preserved and available to the public with the aid of the students of Dickinson College. It is comforting to know that many of those who were interviewed then, that are now deceased, have a glimpse of their life saved.

Written Transcripts
 Interviewee  View/Save  Description
 Charles Carelock    First interview with Charles Carelock and Clayton Carelock
 Dr. Rev. Cooly    Interview with Dr. Rev. W. Braxton Cooly
 Mr. and Mrs. Culpepper    Interview with Mr. and Mrs. Culpepper
 Mrs. Phoenix (Beth Hearst)    Interview with Mrs. Phoenix by Beth Hearst
 Philome Brannock    Interview with Philome Brannock
 William S. Pollard    Interview with William S. Pollard by Christen Delmarco and Nysha King
 Barbara & Kara    Note to Barbara from Sharon containing Jamie's paper, transcript of interview with barbara and part of Karas paper
 Oral History Association    Oral History Association, New Orleans 1997 Looking In Looking Out
 African American Women's Work    Our Servents - A history of African American Womens Work
 Ms. Iamergene Stovaly    Steelton Oral History Project Dickinson College Archives
Podcasts & Media
Podcast Table
Podcast Name  Listen/Save  Description 
Podcast     Researching African American Graveyards w/ Barbara Barksdale
You Tube presentation with Barbara Barksdale   You Tube Presentation by Barbara Barksdale  Community History Dialog - Documenting and Preserving Community Cemeteries

Midland Memories

They Call

Years before she became mscmtyldy our young Barbara Barksdale sat in her parents' black Buick, right over there, by Ancestors Grove, windows rolled up almost all the way. She couldn't hear the call, yet, of leaves rustling and the redwinged blackbirds' caw; allergies clogged her head but she wondered about the deep copse her folks disappeared into to tend her grandfather's grave and she wondered what time Elvis would sing "Heartbreak Hotel" that night on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Still, they called. Years later, allergies in tow, Barbara marched into that thicket with her troops of locals - friends, neighbors, Boy Scouts, historians who noted the leaves rustle and the redwinged blackbirds caw as they recovered this three-acre knoll full of graves from the 1800s- one with an oak whose trunk upheaved a headstone shattered by its reach toward the sky.

Another grave held the remains of an infant whose soft bones crumpled on his passage through his mother's birth canal in the 1920s; and over there, the resting place of Pvt. Samuel Coles, of the Civil War's United States Colored troops, grandfather of my husband's Hygienic Grade School's principal and teacher, whose calls, with the others' made the leaves rustle and the redesigned blackbirds caw in response.

And now, we uncover the true beginnings of the call, not from long-gone Kelker mansion, or from their cultivated gardens, or the their well-kept family plots maintained by the enslaved who tilled the earth and plowed the fields but from right over there where we can still imagine our Barbara waiting for her parents to come back from their task of love and remembrance, back to the place where the first Steelton Kelkers flung as far away from their lives, their life the remains of the deceased enslaved who call to this day but I do not recognize the key hovering somewhere inside me and I cannot know how to recall the tones, the notes from hell passed from our ancestors' cells to me; yet if my mind cannot comprehend the call from those men and women passing on the power of the powerless my heart feels their call.

Our hearts should hear that call. Today. Listen. Listen to the rustle of the leaves; to the caw of the redwinged blackbird. Listen.

Marian Cannon Dornell Saturday, October 20, 18