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The Princess Players

 

Over the years we have had Sooo much Culture in this city…… whether it was individuals or the many talented families……whether it was Singers and Musicians, Artists, Actors, Poets or Playwrights…….York has seen its share……It’s past time for a Renaissance…..time to restart the Culture because as the liner notes on Donald Byrd’s classic album Ethiopian Knights says….It the Culture that Carries us through the Trying times we as a people have faced…….Its the Culture that connects us to what we really are…..and its the Culture that shows us what we shall be………Last week I highlighted the fantastic Miss Fine Brown Frame contest which allowed many of our young ladies to showcase their Beauty & Talent and from the comments I’ve heard many of the Ladies involved benefited immensely from those experiences……This week I will showcase the Fabulous Princess Players…..many of whom were great Thespians in their own right……First up Ms. Margaret Scott & Ms. Betty Johnson among others who starred in the Princess Players Production of Happy Ending…….other cast members included Anthony Grimes and Richard Kinard

Princess Players production of Purlie….starring James Colston & Joseph Carter………

 

Princess Players present “To Be Young, Gifted & BLACK”………starring Lee Smallwood, Maude Kent, Betty Johnson & Connie Wilson ……another wonderful production…..

Here we have the Beautiful Nadine “Pinky” Williams one of the Stars of the Princess Players production of “West Side Story”……….

 

Princess Player Production of “Us and Others” starring the Beautiful & Talented Joyce Hawkins…..also playing in this production were Betty Johnson & Albert “Bumper” Harrison……

 

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Mrs. Ida Grayson – York’s Green Book Connection

Mrs. Ida (Smith) Grayson was another prestigious member of York’s Black community in the early 1900’s. Mrs. Grayson has recently become notable for her relativity to the highly rated new movie “The Green Book”. Mrs. Grayson operated a boarding home in the early 1900’s named The Charlotte Hotel, located at 32 West Princess Street. This Boarding House was listed in several editions of the Green Book. The Green Book was a booklet much like what AAA would put out to advise travelers on this decision or that, relative to traveling. The significant thing about the Green Book was that it was a lifesaving booklet for African American travelers. It advised them on which locations were safe or not for Negroes, as we were called during that era.

Mrs. Grayson was born in 1884, the Daughter of Mr. & Mrs. James & Adell A. Smith. She came to York with her family in 1893, from Norristown, Md. It is not a surprise that Mrs. Grayson’s establishment was listed as a safe haven for Negro travelers and others of that time. Her entire life was dedicated to uplifting and building her community. She was prominent in many local and state Negro organizations. Mrs. Grayson was a Charter member of the Phyllis Wheatley Literary Club.  She was a founder of the Emergency Girls Club and the Entre Nous Art club. Mrs. Grayson was a member and District organizer for the Pennsylvania State Federation of Colored Women’s club.

Mrs. Grayson was highly active in the Faith Presbyterian Church, a small but powerful and influential Black church whose members had broken off from the Historic First Presbyterian church. She served as a member, trustee and Sunday School teacher. The churches focus and mission was the uplift of York’s Black community. Other famous, faithful and influential members of that church included Dr. George Bowles and the Rev. Thomas Montouth, two of the founders of the Crispus Attucks Center.

The 2001 book “How Women Saved the City” by Daphne Spain, mentioned Mrs. Grayson’s Home for Girls, which her Grandson Byron told me was on West College Avenue

                                  Illustration of 1956 Green Book

In April of 1934 Mrs. Grayson gave a major talk to the Women’s Missionary Society of Grace Lutheran church. Mrs. Grayson’s talk was on on Race Relations and Building a Better World. It was met with much praise and high emotions. Mrs. Grayson quoted from Dr. W.E.B. DuBois writing the Object of Segregation. She called the Negro problem in America the ‘greatest handicap’ to building a better world. She said “indifference and prejudice breeds ignorance. She opined that perhaps the churchwomen were not informed on the topic and so asked them to answer certain questions definitively and courageously. Do you judge the whole Negro Race by your experience with the Negro who works for you? Do you have any friends among the Negro race? Do you ever read books or magazines written by Negroes about Negroes? Do you realize the Negro is being given a Raw deal by the New deal? Do you know anything about the housing conditions of Negroes in your town? Is segregation practiced in the schools, churches, restaurants and other public places that you frequent? And what if anything are you doing to alleviate or eradicate these conditions? She closed the talk by requesting the women to plead with those they associate with to treat the Negro as  worthy citizens.

Her son Charles graduated from Millersville State Teachers College and Howard University in Washington D.C. known as the Black Harvard. Eventually he received a Masters Degree in Education from Penn State. Charles went on to a distinguished career as a school teacher and administrator. He taught and was acting Principal of the Smallwood School, one of York’s two segregated schools at the time. After schools desegregated as a result of the Brown versus the Board of Topeka, Kansas,  he became an administrator with the York City School District. In 1953, While still a Principal at Smallwood School, Charles was appointed by Governor John S. Fine as the first African American Alderman in York.

Mr. Grayson, like his Mother Ida, was very aware of the problems facing the Negro in this community and the country. And like his Mother he was not afraid to speak out against injustice. In 1950 he gave a speech at the Small Memorial A.M.E Zion church underscoring the need for change. Grayson challenged America by saying, “  Unless American capitalism narrows the wide gap between the conditions of the Negro today and the expectations of equality laid out by this country’s forefathers, the Negro will seek a solution to his problems in another system. Speaking on the persecution of Negro Icon Paul Robeson for his outspoken views, Grayson said, “Lift Paul Robeson’s comments out of the emotional context with which they have been surrounded and show me where his demands for complete spiritual, cultural and personal freedom is subversive”. Grayson went on to say, “Like the white man the Negro seeks Freedom and shares all the glorious hopes of the West”. “Today the Negro is rejected, the inhuman picture that whites carry in their minds, the continuous anti-Negro epithets on their lips, shut out the Negro as truly as if he were in a cage”. Grayson closed his talk by saying, “the members of both races must throw off their deep-rooted resistance to the presentation of the problem in all its hideous fullness if race relations are to be improved”. Mr. Grayson was speaking at the 27th annual banquet of the church’s trustees. He was introduced by Mr. Henry Hopewell, Principal of Smallwood School. Mrs. Joanna Harris was toastmistress and Rev. William Baker, pastor also spoke.

Mrs. Grayson died February 3, 1936 from a complication of diseases. Her funeral was held at Faith Presbyterian church with the Rev. Thomas Montouth presiding. Her interment was at the historic Mt. Pisgah cemetery in Wrightsville, Pa.

In May of 1945 businessman William C Smith, who died in 1940 left a bequest of money to the Martin Memorial Library to establish the Ida Smith Grayson Memorial Fund. The fund was to be used to purchase books and magazines featuring the development of the Colored Race written by members of the Colored Race

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Dr. George W. Bowles was a Giant in York’s History

Dr. George W. Bowles – a Giant in York’s History

 

Dr. George W. Bowles was born in York, Pa. in 1881. He was the Son of Mr. Adolphus & Mrs. Harriet Bowles of this town. His father Adolphus Bowles, was born in 1850 here in York. They lived at 127 West Princess Street. His Father Adolphus was employed in the Small building downtown as an Elevator Man. George was always an intelligent and motivated individual. He was the First Black Man to graduate from York High in 1898, although he was the second Black Person overall. Mrs. Emma Robinson, longtime school teacher of this town, was the very first person of color to graduate from York High in 1886.
After graduating from York High, Dr. Bowles attended and graduated from Livingstone College, a Historically Black University in North Carolina, affiliated with the A.M.E. Zion Church. He then pursued a four year Degree in Medicine at Howard University in Washington D.C. Dr. Bowles graduated number one in his class from Howard University on June 1, 1906. He was awarded his diploma personally by U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. In 1906, immediately after graduation, Dr. Bowles returned to York to become the First Black physician to practice in this city. But Dr. Bowles became more than just a Doctor. He became a Guiding Light in the development of York’s Black community for the next several decades.
In 1913 Dr. Bowles wrote one of the most controversial papers ever when he advocated a separate Negro Colony as a strategy to combat the atrocious conditions the Negro had to cope with. During a lecture before the Paine Literary Society held at Bethel A.M.E. church Bowles advocated segregation as a way to bring about better living conditions for the Negro in the city and said there ws presently a movement afoot in the city to organize a Negro Colony in York. His lecture was entitled “The living Conditions of the Negro”. Education was dealt with at length in his lecture. The Doctor criticized the Negro for his lack of interest in the public schools intending to show the importance of education to the Negro both individually and as a race. He referred to two representative Negroes, Dr. W.E.B.DuBois and Booker T Washington. the former for his efforts in the pushing the value of higher education and the latter for his emphasis on expanding industrial and vocational education. Speaking about discrimination, Dr. Bowles referred to conditions in this as showing how unjust as far as citizenship, the treatment Negroes receive in this city is. Getting even more controversial Dr. Bowles suggested the citizens of York should offer inducements that will attract a better class f Negroes rather than the large portion of Negroes who are undesirable.  He  went on to say that on certain occasions it was impossible for Negro ministers and professionals to rent on a good street, but was compelled to live under filthy conditions. Bose disclosed that steps are being taken at this time to get a number of local organizations enlisted in a movement to start a Negro colony, a place where the Negro could live without the accustomed humiliation.
In 1917 Dr. Bowles married the lovely Helen Hunter Taylor, a teacher in the Harrisburg public schools. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Lorenzo Taylor, who were prominent in the colored circles of Harrisburg. Miss Taylor in addition to being a school teacher was a musician of marked ability. The couple would reside at 322 Water Street in York which is now Pershing Avenue.
Dr. Bowles was well known in this city and commanded great respect especially among the leading citizens here, both Black and White. He was President of the Peoples Forum a Black organization which stressed education and vocational activities in York. In 1910 the Peoples Forum opened and operated a tobacco factory on Penn & Smyser Street in York. The factory was under the direct supervision of Dr. Bowles and employed about 50 Negroes. The factory was one of the greater accomplishments of the Peoples Forum Vocational and Employment initiatives. The workers were paid between $2.50 and $9.00 per week. Dr. Bowles intended the Forum and its initiatives to be a Great force for uplift among the colored race in this city. The Forum was non-sectarian and held a regular meeting every Sunday at A.M.E. Zion church which was on East King Street at the time. Other officers of the organization were; Marion J. Armstrong Vice-President, S. Milton Gibson, Secretary, Albert Foster assistant Secretary, Paul Foster corresponding Secretary, Nathan Gibson Chaplin, George Chapman Bible Instructor and John C. Reeves Treasurer.
Dr. Bowles along with Rev. Thomas Montouth and his wife Mary, was also instrumental in procuring the Community House for Colored People which was established on North Duke Street in 1917 and had a reading room, reception room, game room and a small gymnasium. Community House was under the auspices of Faith Presbyterian Church and was a model for the Crispus Attucks Association, of which Dr. Bowles along with Rev. Montouth, was a Founding member. In addition to Bible study classes, domestic science and art classes, boys and girls clubs and an employment bureau the Community House became famous for its Community Lyceums or forums. These lyceums were held every week alternatively at the several Negro churches in the community.
In 1915 Dr. Bowles, whose office was at 112 West King Street, was one of three representatives from the State of Pennsylvania to be appointed by then Governor Tener to attend the Emancipation Celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of Negro Freedom, which was to be held in Chicago.
In 1917 Dr. Bowles was elected as a member of the House of Delegates of the National Medical Association, an organization of Negro doctors, surgeons, dentist and pharmacists throughout the United States. In 1938 he was elected as President of this prestigious organization. As President of this organization Dr. Bowles was honored by the Pennsylvania Institute of Negro Health for his “outstanding contributions” and for his activity in planning for better Negro health in the United States. He testified before the U.S. Senate committee on a national health bill.
For 10 years Dr. Bowles chaired the advisory committee of the National Negro United Public Health Services in Washington. In 1942 he was appointed by Governor Gifford Pinchot as a member of the Pennsylvania Inter-Racial Commission. Locally he served for six years as Chairman of the Inter-Racial Commission of York. And in addition to his character building efforts at Crispus Attucks he was instrumental in insuring that the young Black males of York had an opportunity to build their character and leadership skills by participating in the Historic Boy Scout Troop #11, which he along with others worked diligently to sustain.
Dr. Bowles was a prolific writer and a powerful speaker. He would write many letters to the local newspapers trumpeting the need for Negro Unity to address the problems in the Negro community. During celebration recognizing the two hundred and ninety sixth anniversary of the Negro in this country, held at St. Pauls Hall on West Jackson Street, Dr. Bowles spoke on the subject “Will the Education of the Negro Solve the Race Problem?” For a speech at the Bethel A.M.E. church on Newberry & King Street, Dr. Bowles chose as his topic “Race prejudice and Some of It’s Causes”. At another Lyceum at Bethel A.M.E Dr. Bowles spoke on “The Negro Problem Real & Imaginary”.
In March of 1916, Dr. Bowles and others, organized a committee of persons interested in uplifting the colored people of this community. They called a mass meeting for the expressed purpose of forming a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The objectives of the organization would be to form a center for popular education, to create a bureau for the study of local racial conditions and to seek the overall welfare and advancement of the colored people of York.
A short time later Dr. Bowles and a delegation of York Negroes met with Mayor Hugentugler to petition against the showing of the racist film “Birth of a Nation”. The delegation felt that the already considerable prejudice against the Negro race in York would be made far worse by the showing of this anti-Negro film which was based on the Thomas Dixon, Jr. book “The Clansman”. Other members of the delegation were; Rev. J.A.S. Cole, Pastor of A.M.E. Zion church; Rev. G.S. Burton Pastor of Shiloh Baptist church; Rev. W.E. Williams, George I. Reed, G.H. Chapman, and B.T. Montgomery.
Dr. Bowles served on the Board of Directors of Crispus Attucks for over 20 years. Crispus Attucks had a resounding impact on the growth and development of York’s Black Community during and after the tenure of Dr, Bowles. Dr. Bowles statement on the founding of Crispus Attucks was prophetic. He said, “We have a National Purpose in forming this organization. We will be a character building organization. We want to influence the young in order to bring them into Harmony with our ideals. We hope in the development of our center to bring to bear influences that will create conditions which will enable another rising generation to develop character and to perpetuate the best of our culture and traditions. The overall purpose of our organization is for the promotion of the social and moral welfare of the colored people of York. To us this means up-building character by creating and developing activities and conditions that will help the individuals to live happily and normally with each other.”

 

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