AMBLER — “We do not believe Black history is just for the month of February. We believe Black History Month is all year long,” said NAACP Ambler Branch President Shaykh Anwar Muhammad.
During Thursday’s virtual meeting, the organization, which represents the jurisdictions within the North Penn, Upper Dublin and Wissahickon school districts, highlighted North Hills resident Avis Wanda McClinton.
“I had to go through papers and pictures and find a way to reconstruct the Black experience I had in America,” she said.
Dozens listened to McClinton, 52, a Quaker, as she shared her experience discovering the gravesites of enslaved African-Americans near the Upper Dublin Friends Meeting House in Maple Glen.
“God told me to go there and I went there,” she said.
Following her discovery, McClinton said she did research on the area with a friend, later writing in a 2014 Friends Journal posting that a farmhouse, inhabited by Quaker abolitionists Thomas and Hannah Atkinson, was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad from 1852-1865.
According to McClinton, the Atkinsons would bury slaves who died seeking freedom at the post in a graveyard near the meetinghouse at night due to laws banning anyone from providing “assistance to runaways.”
“I personally admire the people who risked their lives being abolitionists because they could have been imprisoned for assisting runaways,” McClinton wrote in 2014. “Both Thomas and Hannah Atkinson are buried in the meetinghouse graveyard along with many of the people that died seeking freedom.”
McClinton added Thursday that “says a lot about some of the race relations back in that time.”
McClinton said she organized two memorial services in 2013 to honor the enslaved African-Americans found at the graveyard. During Thursday’s presentation, McClinton displayed a replica of an “enslaved ancestor” to exemplify “what was discovered on Quaker grounds in Pennsylvania.”
Additionally, the area was designated as a Pennsylvania Historical Site in March 2013 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, according to McClinton.
She said she’s personally faced discrimination and recalled being “treated very, very badly” by other Quakers.
“I was called everything but a child of God,” she said, but still remains committed to her faith because “I believe in God, and he told me to do this, and I’m finding them.”
Still, McClinton said there’s more work to be done. She called on the descendants of “slave owning families” to make their records publicly available.
Stephanie Leonard, the NAACP Ambler branch’s membership chair, added that similar locations should be acknowledged.
“It seems like to me Black history and slavery is American as apple pie,” Leonard said. “So we need to make sure things like that should be recognized.”
“I totally agree with you … Stephanie,” McClinton replied.