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Acknowledgments - Woven With Words


Laurie Grobman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English and Coordinator, B.A. in Professional Writing

 Gary Kunkelman, Ph.D.

Lecturer in English


When the Reading Chapter of the NAACP approached Penn State Berks to collaborate on this project, several faculty saw a rich opportunity to partner with the community on a significant and much-needed endeavor while simultaneously providing a unique learning experience for students.  Project leader Dr. Laurie Grobman, Associate Professor of English, Dr. Gary Kunkelman, Lecturer in English, and Dr. Ray Mazurek, Associate Professor of English, together pooled the resources of the Professional Writing and American Studies programs at Berks in order to offer courses that would accommodate the needs of the first phase of the project: researching and writing articles.  Dr. Maggie O’Connor, Assistant Professor of Marketing, and Dr. Susanne Samson, Senior Lecturer in Information Sciences and Technology, offered courses for the second phase: marketing the book and creating the website.


Students and faculty worked closely with members of the Berks African American community to research and develop material for the articles that comprise this book and the website.  Students made trips to local historical repositories, including the Historical Society of Berks County and the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum.  Barbara Brophy, Historical Society of Berks County librarian, and Kathy Hess, Reading Public Library technical assistant, were especially helpful to our students.


Students also met often with local historians, including Frank Gilyard, Director of the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum, who brought a rolling suitcase full of materials every time he came to the Berks campus.1  Karen James, historian with the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission, visited a class at Penn State Berks to share her insights on what it means to “do” African American history.  Robert Jefferson, Patsy Jefferson, Ron Rouse, Jessie Evans, Gus Giddens, and Ada McCracken generously shared their insights and memories.  Reading Native and African American historian Richard G. Johnson’s work from the “Black in Berks” project, researched and written between 1970 and 1972, was also instrumental to this project.  Johnson gave “Black in Berks” to the Historical Society of Berks County “for students and scholars to build upon,” which they did.  Helen Smith, who is not a native Berks Countian but who is as dedicated to the Berks County African American community as anyone, came to several of our meetings and helped us to make important decisions about the project.


Two community members contributed articles to this book. Brian C. Engelhardt, an attorney with the Berks firm Leisawitz Heller Abramowitch Phillips, PC, and a baseball aficionado, gave generously of his time and knowledge by writing the article on Berks baseball.  Jennifer Schlegel, assistant professor of anthropology at Kutztown University, who wrote the article on the fight against racism in Boyertown, is also the chairperson of the Boyertown Area Unity Coalition and chairperson of the Reading-Berks Conflict Resolution Task Force.


Our copyeditor, Gina Gemello, deserves special thanks for her skilled and graceful copyediting.  Gina immediately recognized the value of this project and signed on to do the work despite her very full professional schedule.  Lauren Balogh, a senior in Professional Writing at Penn State Berks and author of “The Home Life and Family Life of African Americans in Berks County in the Eighteenth Century” and “The History of the NAACP Reading Branch” in this book, deserves special thanks for her extensive work in collecting photographs to accompany the articles and for helping with anything else we asked her to do.


We are deeply appreciative of the following people and organizations who helped to make this project a reality by providing financial support: The Department of Community and Economic Development; Dr. Terrell Jones and the Office of Educational Equity at Penn State University; Dr. Susan Phillips Speece, Chancellor, Penn State Berks; Dr. Carl Lovitt, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Penn State Berks; Dr. Kenneth Fifer, Penn State Berks Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Division Head; Dr. Paul Esqueda, Penn State Berks Engineering, Business, and Computing Division Head; the Penn State Berks Humanities, Arts, and Sciences Multicultural Education Initiative; and the Penn State Berks Professional Writing and American Studies programs.



1 Students’ references to Mr. Gilyard refer to these many interviews from October 2005 through February 2006, although only one citation appears in the References section.


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