At 1199C Hospital Workers Union
1319 Locust Street, Philadelphia
Moonstone Arts Center
This project began as a challenge. In 1866, the Board of Managers published a list of all of the graduates of the Institute for Colored Youth from the first graduation in 1856 to 1864. Students in a graduate seminar on the Civil War at Villanova were challenged to choose a few of the thirty-seven graduates to see what they might learn about these individuals and this school that stood at the center of the black community in Civil War Philadelphia but about which we know very little. Several students were enthusiastic about continuing the project. With a grant from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, Michael Johnson, James Kopaczewski, and Elizabeth Motich began the work in earnest the summer of 2014. By the end of summer, we had something to say about each of the thirty-seven Graduates, and when we saw that, as alumni, their paths continued to cross, we added sections on Faculty and Moments.
"You cannot think how proud I am of that Institute and how grateful I am to the Managers for its Library, its Schools, its lectures, and its colored teachers. Oh, it is a great thing for our people."
These were the words of a mother to a teacher at Philadelphia's Institute for Colored Youth in May of 1857. Opened in 1852 at 716-718 Lombard Streets, the Institute was funded and managed by Quakers. Institute faculty and students were some of the best and brightest of the city's African American community. Graduates of the school became teachers, physicians, government employees, diplomats, and businessmen and women. They acted as leaders for the African American community, supported the Union war effort, and worked for equal rights as citizens of the United States. Institute teachers and student made their mark in Philadelphia and in cities across the United States--and even around the world.
"A Great Thing for Our People: The Institute for Colored Youth in the Civil War Era" explores the lives of the men and women who graduated from the Institute between 1852 and 1866, when the school moved from its site on Lombard Street to Ninth and Bainbridge. In addition to biographies of these first thirty-seven graduates, the project also presents important moments during the Civil War Era in which these men and women played integral roles, reaffirming the praises of that unnamed mother that the Institute for Colored Youth was indeed "a great thing for our people."