William Penn High School

The Predictable Past: The York County Race Riots

William Penn High School

York, Pennsylvania 17402, United States

Created By: Kelsey Wisman


Throughout 1968, there were various incidents or disturbances that occurred within York that led to the 1969 riots. Some of those events happened in William Penn, the high school that resides in York City. For example, Dr. Levy details a "mini-riot" that occurred following a football game between William Penn and Cedar Cliff High, which was a predominately white school from Camp Hill. Fans began fighting and the fighting continued into downtown York, which led to more violence. (1)

After the riots, tensions within York remained. In 1970, a fight began in a hallway between one white and black student. This fight occurred due to the white student questioning the black student's relationship with a white female student. This escalated a day later when 200 whites arrived outside the school with "baseball bats, clubs, and chains, and perhaps guns." Once the police arrived, they accepted the whites account, utilized the K9 Unit, and arrested several blacks.

This led to Mayor Eichelberger declaring a state of emergency, closing all schools, and creating a curfew. (2)

A few days later, William Penn opened once again. However, "three white students" were detained for "possessing a gun." It was determined that the student who had possession of the gun was the "son of a city council member." This student was taken into custody, but he was not "charged with a crime." (3)

Peter B. Levy, The Great Uprising (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 257-258.

Levy, The Great Uprising, 290.

Levy, The Great Uprising, 291.

This point of interest is part of the tour: The Predictable Past: The York County Race Riots


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