Students documenting African American history through project


Callie Burgan

Some Pitt-Johnstown history students are working on area project that is set to document African American history in Johnstown.

The African American Heritage Society, Johnstown Area Heritage Association and history department members are to host three “African American History Documentation Days” in February and March to gather materials while students use participants’ stories to create documentary films.

At the events, students are to collect videotaped oral histories as participants answer questions about the development of Johnstown’s African American community from the 1930s to the present.

Topics are to include jobs, communities and churches.

In addition, topics involving military service and education are of interest.

Junior Boston Bradley said he is excited to be working on The Johnstown African American History Days as a part of his Historical Methods class.

“This is a great opportunity for us as students to get out and see a positive impact in the community while also giving us real life experience in uncovering history.

“As someone who lives in Johnstown, I am very excited to be part of a positive impact in the community.” Bradley said.

Senior Makenzie Croyle said she thinks the project is helping to shed light on a topic that is sometimes disregarded.

“The African American history of Johnstown is overlooked too often. I’m from Johnstown, and I’m just now learning so much of it.

“It’s an incredible, eye-opening experience that I’m grateful to be part of.” Croyle said.

Junior Zeno Zimmer said he agrees with Croyle.

“Yes, it is great to be part of researching something that not many know much about in our community.

“It kind of feels like we at Pitt-Johnstown are participating in helping unearth some local history for all of us to be a part of.

“Especially since some of the topics are of dark nature than many people were not even aware existed in Johnstown.” Zimmer said.

According to history professor Paul Newman, all community members are welcome to come share their story.

“Every member of this community has something important to add.” Newman said.

According to Johnstown Area Heritage Association curator Andrew Lang, family documents such as marriage, birth and death certificates will be accepted.

Lang said students are to digitize materials, return the originals and provide digital copies to participants free of charge.

“We encourage participants to bring family photo albums and scrapbooks for scanning.” Lang said.

The historical materials collection is to be held from 1 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 15 in the African American Heritage Society Room at the Heritage Discovery Center in Johnstown.