What is the Civic Empathy Through History Project?
As a member of the Heinz History Center Affiliates (HCAP) program, the Ohio County Public Library has the honor of representing our region by partnering with the Heinz Center for the “Civic Empathy Through History” project, which brings together a network of 15 sites throughout our region that create engaging experiences to build empathy and serve as the foundation for civic engagement. A part of the Grable Foundation’s Tomorrow Grants program, the project highlights stories and artifacts across Affiliate sites that show how people have taken action to make positive impacts on their communities.
The Library's featured artifact is a typewritten speech. On February 9, 1936, Harry H. Jones, Wheeling’s only African American attorney at the time, delivered a talk on the city’s white-owned radio station WWVA. Titled “Wheeling’s 20th Man,” it referred to Black’s representing one twentieth, or 5%, of the city’s population at the time. The speech centered on the conditions faced by Wheeling’s African American citizens under “Jim Crow,” a system designed to segregate Black and White citizens into separate communities. In a courageous challenge to the Wheeling community, Jones asked people to consider the inequality of Jim Crow, in terms of access to jobs, housing, recreation, and education. He appealed for empathy for the African American community and asked listeners to consider the legal and social changes needed to address these inequities.
Since landmark legal cases such as 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education ended racial segregation, Wheeling has struggled with integration. The Brown decision effectively closed Lincoln, Wheeling’s underfunded African American school. The city practiced “redlining,” granting suburban housing loans to white families while pushing Blacks to urban housing even as “urban renewal” decimated existing Black communities.
Like most of the rest of the country, Civil Rights protests in Wheeling were met with police pushback, but African American leaders persevered. As one consequence of these struggles to overcome a segregated history, the town has suffered from the exodus of younger African Americans who have often left seeking greater economic and social opportunities. Many of those who have stayed have worked to improve Wheeling’s diversity and community harmony by advocating for economic and social justice. Some have founded minority owned businesses. These entrepreneurs face the same challenges of all small businesspeople, but also wrestle with the obstacles remaining from Jim Crow.
Harry H. Jones’s “Wheeling’s 20th Man” speech was delivered on WWVA radio, February 9, 1936. While speaking directly to the people of Wheeling, Jones advised “Justice and candor require attention to the handicaps suffered by Wheeling’s twentieth man.” He went on to describe an entirely separate Black community, with its own doctors, dentists, restauranteurs, shop keepers, hairdressers, and even funeral directors. Wheeling in 1936 was actually two cities, side-by-side but completely separate. This constituted Wheeling under Jim Crow: separate, and decidedly not equal.
Wheeling’s past still impacts the present. The phrase “justice and candor” from the “20th Man” speech is still relevant for us. We want to hear from you.
We asked Ron Scott to rewrite the Jones speech from a 2022 perspective. Read Ron's modern take, “Acceptance, Understanding, & Opportunity. The 20th Man That Stands Before You."
Listen to Ron's reading of his rewrite HERE.
Call to Action
JUSTICE CREATES OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL TO THRIVE:
This flyer lists and locates locally owned businesses. Consider visiting and supporting them, particularly minority,
women, or LGBTQ owned enterprises. MMake a purchase. Distribute flyers. Post about these businesses on social media using #Justice&Candor. These actions all constitute support.
CANDOR CREATES EMPATHY:
Consider speaking or reflecting candidly, openly, and honestly, on this issue. Fill out a form or record a video sharing your experience visiting the exhibit. What feelings did it evoke? Do you have a personal story of overcoming obstacles? What more can be done in the name of Justice and Candor?
Upcoming Civic Empathy Through History Programs
September 27, 2022 - 11:00am - CIVIC EMPATHY THROUGH HISTORY: Opening of New Exhibit and Project in Partnership with Heinz History Center
September 27, 2022 - Noon - LUNCH WITH BOOKS: Civic Empathy Through History: Coming to the Table with Tom DeWolf & Ron Scott
September 27, 2022 - 6:00pm - TRACES OF TRADE: Film Screening & Q&A with Tom DeWolf
“CIVIC EMPATHY THROUGH HISTORY” Sites:
1. Battle of Homestead Foundation, P.O. Box 339, Homestead, PA 15120
2. Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation, 1235 3rd Ave, Freedom, PA 15042
3. Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum, 595 McKean Ave, Donora, PA 15033
4. Duncan & Miller Glass Museum, 100 Ridge Ave, Washington, PA 15301
5. Fayette County Cultural Trust - Connellsville Canteen, 139 West Crawford Avenue, Connellsville PA 15425
6. Green Tree Public Library, 10 W Manilla Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15220
7. Meyersdale Public Library, 210 Center St, Meyersdale, PA 15552
8. Ohio County Public Library, 52-16th Street, Wheeling, WV 26003
9. Preservation Pittsburgh, 1501 Reedsdale St #5003, Pittsburgh, PA 15233
10. Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation, 140 Haupt Rd, Somerset, PA 15501
11. Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill Archive, 129 DePaul Center Rd., Greensburg, PA 15601
12. Western Allegheny Community Library, 181 Bateman Rd, Oakdale, PA 15071
13. Westmoreland County Historical Society, 809 Forbes Trail Rd, Greensburg, PA 15601
14. Wheeling Academy-Law & Science (WALS) Foundation, 1413 Eoff St., Wheeling, WV 26003
15. Zelienople Historical Society, 243 S Main St, Zelienople, PA 16063