Jeff Kirkland: Preserving York’s Black History

To help York build a better future, Jeff Kirkland’s preserving a history that’s been ignored.

Walk six blocks west from Martin Library, and you’ll find another kind of library. 

Hanging on walls, stored in boxes, and archived on hard drive after hard drive in Jeff Kirkland’s West Market Street home is a collection of stories that tell the history of York – the black history of York. 

For years, Jeff has conducted interviews, done research and collected photographs in an effort to preserve a history that’s been overlooked. 
He hopes to write a book one day, or maybe open a space dedicated to showcasing York’s black history. 
But for now, he works tirelessly to gather the information before it disappears.  
“History is lost when generations die out,” he says.

 

He’s learned about black entrepreneurs and the first black church. And he’s learned more of his own personal history. His grandfather, one of a group of 200 black men who moved from South Carolina in the 1920s, organized a protest against unequal treatment for black people at his job.  
It was also his grandfather, Jeff says, who urged Voni Grimes to move to York. 
It’s also important for white people to learn black history, he says.  
“To know how we got to this point. We didn’t get here accidentally.” 
In order to create a better future, you have to understand the past, he says. 
“Our story needs to be told.” 

 

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