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February 17, 2021
Meet Our 2021 Social Mission Partner: Crispus Attucks
At Fig, we believe in the power of a community that works together to identify needs and find solutions —one that creates connections and is passionate about helping its neighbors. Each year, Fig partners with a nonprofit organization working to transform the community. Our 2021 Social Mission Partner is Crispus Attucks. Please join us in supporting them.
Crispus Attucks Community Center strives to improve the quality of life for youth and families in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by providing services that promote Community prosperity, physical and mental health, and by offering programs and cultural event.
The origins of the Crispus Attucks Community Center are found in the decade after World War I when local veterans returned to a society that was profoundly segregated along racial lines. Lancaster County’s African-American population, due in large part to discrimination and segregation in all aspects of County life, had declined by 30% from a pre-Civil War high of 3,600.
A recently arrived pastor at Lancaster City’s Bethel A.M.E. Church, Rev. F.M. Webster, conceived the idea of a “Negro Civic League” to promote the interests of local Blacks in the social, economic, and political arenas. Civic Leagues existed in other states of the Union and Lancaster had a pressing need for what, in today’s terms would be considered a civil rights organization. The overwhelming majority of Black Lancastrians were trapped in menial employment because of low educational attainment and local resistance to any effort to help them acquire the skills for more demanding and better-paid employment.
An Inter-Racial Committee held a Colored Community Party in Independence Hall, 460 South Duke Street, reportedly in 1926 (according to Bill Simpson) and thus began the Crispus Attucks. This account is, however, contradicted by an account in the October 5, 1929 issue of the New Era titled “Colored Recreation Center Organizes.” In the body of the article it was stated that the board of the Center was “reorganized.” This is not an insignificant point as later history with the Recreation Commission would show. The October 1929 meeting resulted in two momentous announcements: the recreation center would henceforth be known as the “Crispus Attucks Community Center”, a name that resonated with African Americans aware of their history [Crispus Attucks was the first martyr of the nation’s struggle to free itself from British rule: he was killed at the Boston Massacre in 1770; his role in the ongoing struggle for emancipation and self-determination conducted by African Americans after the Revolution was institutionalized with the erection of a statue in his honor in Boston after the Civil War]; also it was announced that a “social secretary,” Mrs. Ruby Bohee of Paducah, Kentucky, would be introduced on November 25, 1929.With her arrival in Lancaster, a new era for Lancaster Blacks began. During her tenure (1929-1959) Mrs. Bohee (later Mrs. Payne and then Mrs. Cook) created programming that brought vestiges of the Harlem Renaissance to Lancaster. She relied on a host of volunteers and support from the majority community rallied in part by Grant D. Brandon and other progressive thinkers in Lancaster’s white community. The title of “social secretary” does not in the least reflect the important role which Mrs. Bohee played during her thirty years at the helm of the Crispus Attucks. She became a spokesperson for Lancaster’s Black community and the steward of many of their hopes and desires. In those brief three decades, the Crispus Attucks became the social hub of the Southeast area and beyond. With the death of Grant D. Brandon and the retirement of Mrs. (by then) Ruby M. Cook, a more difficult era began for Crispus Attucks.
Their work continues to serve the growing population by providing programs and resources that help children, youth, families, and individuals thrive and prosper under the leadership of newly appointed Program Director, Joshua Hunter. The current programs operating at the community center include: The African American Historical Society of South Central Pennsylvania, Infamous Unstoppables, Reunion Food Truck, Crispus Attucks Food Bank, Crispus Attucks Café, Rebel Chique Dance Co. & Performing Arts and Music for Everyone Strings Ensemble.
Find out more and get involved at: caplanc.org.
To subscribe to Fig Lancaster and receive issues 4-times per year delivered right to your door, click here. 10% of your subscription price goes to Crispus Attucks.