The ‘Hello Erie’ trip planner app offers twelve do-it-yourself tours. One of the newest is a narrated African American History Tour that includes historic sites, contemporary murals, and African-American-owned businesses.
There are 42 stops along the way including the church where internationally celebrated soloists and composer Harry T. Burleigh sang in the choir. Harry Thacker Burleigh began his career here in Erie, singing in the choir at the Episcopal cathedral of St. Paul. In the 1890s, Burleigh had adapted spirituals into compositions such as “Deep River,” launching his performances throughout the United States and in Europe. When he passed, his remains were brought home to Erie and a stain glass window was installed at St. Paul’s in his honor.
Established in 1851, Erie Cemetery is the final resting place of Harry T. Burleigh and many other notable figures associated with Erie County African American history. Located near the entrance of the cemetery are the gravestones of William Himrod and Henry Catlin, white Erie-ites who fought for freedom during the Underground Railroad Era. The cemetery also includes the graves of the Lawrence Family, descendants of former slave and one of Erie’s pioneering early settlers, Bo Bladen as well as Rufus D.H. Baxter, Erie’s first African American policeman. The Cemetery Association provides assistance in locating each gravesite.
Check out one of Erie’s many black-owned businesses. Open only for dinner, Pineapple Eddie Southern Bistro is a southern Caribbean fusion restaurant with savory dishes such as Creole Shrimp & Andouille Sausage over Grits, Fried Chicken & Waffles, Fried or Pan-seared Catfish, Poundcake and more. Visitors are invited to dine-in or carry out.
Another stop is located in Bayview Park where Erie’s Black baseball team the Pontiacs played. Located at the northern edge of the historic black neighborhood Jerusalem, the Pontiacs drew large crowds from 1936-1956. A well-known player of the Pontiacs was Major League Baseball’s 1950 Rookie of the Year Sam Jethroe. In 2010, the Bayview Park ballpark was renamed “Pontiac Field” in honor of the team’s accomplishments. In 2020, artists installed a mural behind home plate showcasing some of the players.
Take the journey and discover how important African American achievements were in forming the Erie area.