Rev. Thomas Montouth born in Georgetown Guyana, came to York in 1905 by way of New York through Lincoln University. Rev. Montouth operated a newstand at 298 West Princess Street where he distributed Black newspapers and other literature such as the Baltimore Afro American and the Pittsburg Courier. He was an outspoken advocate for Negro Rights in this community for decades in the 1920’s, 30’s and into the 1950’s. He became the Minister at Faith Presbyterian church in 1928. Rev. Montouth was one of the founders of the Community House a precursor to the Crispus Attucks Association, he was a founding member of the Crispus Attucks Association, the Lincoln University Alumni Club and the Powerful Citizens Club. He was a prolific writer and a fearless advocate for justice and would publish letters in the local newspapers on many topics related to the uplift of the Black man in York, Pa. He was ….….in 1932 his letter entitled “The Dawn of a New Day” called for the Negro elite of the community to come together to identify and resolve the major problems facing the Negro here. Other articles he wrote included one on Brotherliness, Racial separation and the Negro Church. As head of the local NAACP he would lead investigations into many acts of racial injustice or discrimination without Fear. He was a strong advocate for those wrongly charged by the criminal justice system.
In 1947 he was involved in a well-publicized discrimination suit against Howard Miller, the owners of the Dinner Bell Restaurant at 155 South Queen Street. The suit grew out of waiter Millard Dinges’ refusal to serve Rev. Montouth at the diner. Although the refusal to serve was witnessed by two York City policemen, Corporal Ira Bohn and Edward Pinkerton, the suit was denied by a local grand jury in what was termed “a capricious and arbitrary act totally disregarding the facts and the law”. Although he was not an attorney, as head of the NAACP Rev. Montouth would appear in court to defend any who he felt were wrongly accused. One such incident in 1950 involved the case of an 18 year old Negro male arrested for smiling and winking at a white woman. The youth was sentenced to pay a $25.00 fine and spend 30 days in Jail. Afer visiting and petitioning the Mayor at the time Mayor Bentzel the unjust sentence was overturned.
Another notorious case was the 1941 case of Mr. Alfoster White, 31 years old at the time. Mr. White was charged arbitrarily with disorderly conduct after a car he was riding in operated by Mr. Charles Washington was struck by the car of a white man, Grayson Deardorff. The officer alleged that Mr. White was arguing with Mr. Deardorff and refused to move along. Rev. Montouth happened to be a witness to the incident and upon his testimony the case was dismissed.
In 1931 Rev. Montouth joined with Dr. George Bowles and several other community leaders to organize the Crispus Attucks Association. They envisioned an organization which could take the lead in building and uplifting the growing Black community. Crispus Attucks became the Heartbeat of the Black community during this era. The Negro community as well as the community in general came to the support of the program. In the 1943 membership drive 957 new members signed up in support of the center. Of the 1400 employable colored citizens in the city of York at that time, 877 purchased memberships. If ever there was a renaissance for York’s Black community it came during the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s when Crispus Attucks provided leadership, direction and purpose for individual and group development. The leadership were proponents of W.E.B. Dubois philosophy of the “talented tenth” which described his belief that one in 10 black men who have become leaders of their race through methods such as continuing their education, writing books, or becoming directly involved in social change, had a responsibility to give back in an effort to uplift the Race. These leaders were outspoken and direct in their belief that we should assume responsibility for the development of our community both collectively and individually.
In 1972 Rev. Montouth was awarded the “Service to Mankind” award by the Sertoma Club of York. This award was presented to a citizen who has given freely and unselfishly his or her time and service to their fellow man.
Rev. Montouth’s home and business was destroyed in the floods spawned by hurricane Agnes in 1972. He then moved in with his daughter Ms. Alma Montouth, a retired school teacher who lived on the corner of Pershing Avenue and Maple Street. Rev. Montouth died in 1977 and is interred at Lebanon Cemetery.
Teachers versus Educators. There is a significant difference between the two words.
The word ‘educator’ is used mainly as a noun. An educator leaves a permanent impression upon those taught. Many a time those taught consider such a person who has left a permanent impression upon him/her as their mentor. It is thus, understood that not all teachers can be called educators. Only those teachers who leave a permanent mark in the hearts of the students can be called educators.
On the other hand, a teacher is appointed by the management of a school or a college to teach the lessons that form part of the syllabus for the students of a particular class.
Miss Ella Robinson was one of York’s Finest Educators. She was born here on January 25, 1868, the daughter of William T & Eliza H. Robinson 457 Salem Avenue in York. She graduated from William Penn High School June of 1886 when it was still on Philadelphia Street right across from what is now the White Rose Restaurant. She was the first Negro, as we were called during that period, to graduate from York High. She began teaching that year in September at the colored school located in the A.M.E. Zion church on East King Street. When the new Smallwood School was built she became one of the first teachers there teaching first, second and third grades. For many years she was principal of the Smallwood School and for the last ten years of service she was instructor of what was called the opportunity room which was housed in the original Smallwood building. She remained there until the end of her teaching career. She was credited with 48 years of continuous teaching by the Employees Retirement Board in Harrisburg, Pa. She did postgraduate work for several summers at the University of Pennsylvania. She was a life-long member of A.M.E. Zion church and served as Superintendent of the Sunday School there for 18 years. She was also a graduate of the Interdenominational School of Religious Education. She was survived by two sisters; Mrs. Julia R. Prince and Miss Mary E. Robinson, also a school teacher. Miss Robinson died in 1935 and is buried in the Lebanon Cemetery.
This is a photo of an early York band called the Eureka Band of York, Pa. They were an all colored band which traveled and entertained throughout the area in the early 1900’s. Some of the officers and band members were; William Dorsey, President; Benjamin Richardson, vice-President; Harry Barton, Secretary and Manager; Rankin Wilson, Leader; David Barton asst. Leader; Charles Thomas, Treasurer; Basil Harris, Charles Jones and James Berry, Trustees. Other members included; F.G Gordon and Earl Dorsey. The band practiced at the Old Bethel A.M.E. Church on the corner of King and Newberry Street. They played at different venues around the area including Memorial services conducted at the Lebanon Cemetery which were hosted by Master of Ceremony Aquilla Howard and were attended by members of Faith Presbyterian Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Bethel A.M.E. Church and Zion A.M.E. Church.
One of their most memorable performances was when they played for the celebration honoring the Two Hundred and ninety-sixth anniversary of the Afro-American in this country on December 8, 1915 at St. Paul’s Hall on West Jackson Street in York. The Celebration was sponsored by the Young Men’s Progressive Club and the Young Ladies Always Ready Club, two African American organizations based at Bethel A.M.E. Church.
In addition to the lively entertainment there were several powerful speeches given throughout the event including one by Rev. Dr. J.A. Cole entitled “Will the Education of the Negro Solve the Race Problem? Dr. George Bowles spoke on the topic of “What Achievements has the African American Made in this Country”? The final talk for the event was from Professor J.I. Reed who spoke on “How Can the Negro Best Enjoy His Liberty and Freedom………….from all reports it was a joyous and uplifting affair……..The photo was submitted by my Cousin Calvin Kirkland, who is a cousin of the two Dorsey men in the photo, and was restored by me(Jeff Kirkland)……hope you enjoy it as much as I did…………
York’s black history: ‘It’s a heavy torch to carry’
Brandie Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org 6:13 a.m. EDT August 14, 2016
John Seville, of York Township, center, greets Jeff Kirkland after Kirkland’s presentation on York’s black history. At left, Kirkland’s cousin, Lyndon Kirkland of Danbury, Connecticut, greets their aunt, Brenda Rice of York, on Saturday at the York County History Center. Jeff Kirkland, a former York City school board president, is forming the York African-American Historical
(Photo: Chris Dunn, York Daily Record)
Even as a child, Jeff Kirkland had an inquisitive mind, especially when it came to history and, specifically, the history of African-Americans in York.
That curiosity is something he doesn’t see as much in today’s youth, he said. But he insists children must learn about their past and what their parents, grandparents and others gave to improve life for future generations.
There’s a lot to learn from the past, Kirkland said. With that interest in mind, he and two other Yorkers founded the York African-American Historical Preservation Society.
On Saturday, before a packed room of nearly 100 people inside the York County History Center in York, Kirkland gave a presentation that lasted about 2 hours, discussing decades of black history in York.
Kirkland’s presentation included projections of photographs, letters, news articles and other documents that detail the various black leaders, organizations and churches in York’s history.
He talked about the Underground Railroad and the history of slavery in York, including how prominent white families, sometimes related to manumitted or freed slaves, would assist those black men and women who were trying to get a footing in York. He discussed the popular businesses black people started, how many of them got their start in barbering and some became teachers.
For the first 20 to 30 minutes of Kirkland’s talk, volunteers at the York County History Center continued bringing more chairs into the room, as the crowd swelled to standing-room only.
The audience laughed at some of the funnier stories Kirkland told, like one about a conspiracy to burn down York in 1803. As retribution for a black woman jailed for allegedly trying to poison two females, some black community members conspired to burn down the town. A girl who was supposed to set one of the fires, being told to set the fire at 12 o’clock, mistook noon for midnight and was caught in the act.
When Kirkland talked about the history of the Crispus Attucks Community Center in York, and all the opportunity it gave to children and adults alike, Carman Bryant, 59, of York, said she felt emotional.
“I grew up going to [Crispus Attucks],” she said. “Jeff [Kirkland] was always one of my mentors. My heart was fluttering,” when he talked about the center. “The [Crispus Attucks center] was the bedrock,” Bryant added. “I knew a lot of the families, but I didn’t know the stories behind the families.”
Bryant said today’s young people “are so detached from the history.”
Sharon Ritter, another founder of the York African-American Historical Preservation Society, agreed.
Ritter said she never learned about black history when she grew up and attended school in York. “I learned most of my history from my family,” she said.
A mix of newspaper headlines and story briefs dating from the late 1960s and early 1970s chronicles a slice of York’s black history in a collage shown Saturday at the York County History Center. Jeff Kirkland, a former York City school board president, is forming the York African-American Historical Preservation Society and presented a lecture on York’s black history.
A mix of newspaper headlines and story briefs dating from the late 1960s and early 1970s chronicles a slice of York’s black history in a collage shown Saturday at the York County History Center. Jeff Kirkland, a former York City school board president, is forming the York African-American Historical Preservation Society and presented a lecture on York’s black history. (Photo: Chris Dunn, York Daily Record)
But with most of those from the older generations dying, Ritter said the torch has been passed on to her, Kirkland and another society founder, John Dalton, for them to teach the next generation.
“It’s a heavy torch to carry,” Ritter said. “They passed the history on to us, and that’s why we feel a responsibility to pass it on.”
To learn more about the York African-American Historical Preservation Society, visit www.yorkblackhistory.com.
I designed this collage as a gift to Honor and Thank the many generations of Black Men from York, Pa. who served in this nation’s Military, defending the ideals upon which it stands….even though the situation here continues to be far from ideal. We Blacks in York and this country have a Rich and Noble history however exploited and painful it has been. The experiences of the “everyday” Black Man and Women should be cherished and articulated at every opportunity. The story of the Black man in the Military will be just one part of an overall discussion on The Black Experience in York I will be giving at the York Historical Society on Saturday August 13, at 10:30 am. All are welcome………..
Historical Society Museum
York’s African American Experience
The African American Historical Preservation Society (AAHPS) is a newly formed group dedicated to collecting, preserving and propagating information related to the African American experience in York, Pennsylvania. Society member Jeff Kirkland will present an overview of the groups’ work in documenting the local African American experience from the late 1700s until the mid to late 1900s….from the arrival of the first manumitted slaves, the strong abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, to present day educators, entrepreneurs and community leaders. The hope of the AAHPS is to provide a sense of identity and motivation to members of our community, especially the youth, so that they might understand and appreciate our significant contributions to the building of this historic region…..as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “ We are not Makers of History….We are Made by History.”