Created By: Sweetwater Center for the Arts
It is unknown to many that Sewickley has had a prominent and thriving Black community for many generations. The first African Americans arrived in Sewickley in the 1820s. With opportunity to work in construction, building the town, and in wealthy homes as domestic workers, many migrated here, and a large community of African Americans was quickly formed.
As the community grew, Sewickley’s first African American mission, the historic St. Matthews A.M.E. Zion Church, was founded in 1857 and became a safe house for those escaping slavery in the Underground Railroad. Sewickley had many Black owned businesses in the early 1900’s, the community founded their own “colored” YMCA when they were denied entrance to the local facility, and eight of the famous Tuskegee Airman called Sewickley home. This is just a taste of the rich history you will find as you follow this self-guided tour.
The Sewickley Black History Tour offers a view into the past, highlighting the accomplishments and adversities of the Sewickley African American community, intertwined with historical and personal accounts of the times and places. The African American community of Sewickley was one of strength and determination. When faced with challenges, they time after time, joined together to overcome those obstacles. When told they were not welcome, they created their own spaces, often establishing organizations that typically only Black communities in large cities were able to support. The African Americans in the Sewickley Valley were able to create a life for themselves and their families that cherished community, love, success, and respect.
Bettie Cole and Autumn Redcross, F.M. (2008). African Americans in Sewickley Valley. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Press.
Bettie Cole, F.M. (2000). Their Story: The History of Black/Africans in Sewickley & Edgeworth. Sewickley, PA: Self-Published.
The Sewickley Black History Tour was created through a partnership between the Sewickley Community Center and Sweetwater Center for the Arts MAVUNO Festival of African American Art and Culture.
In partnership, the Sewickley Public Library is showcasing a collection of Black authors, items related to the history of African Americans in the Sewickley Valley, and works highlighting African American art and culture.
MAVUNO 2020 partners include the Sewickley Community Center, The Sewickley Valley Historical Society, The Sewickley Public Library, and The Tull Family Theater.
Thank you to our 2020 MAVUNO sponsors: Gold Sponsor Super Bakery, Silver Sponsor PittsburghAde and our Bronze Sponsors The Sewickley Eye Group and Ameriprise.