Cheyney University Founded in 1837 started as a school for Colored Youth

The founding of Cheyney University was made possible by Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000, one tenth of his estate, to design and establish a school to educate the descendants of the African race. Born on Tortola, an island in the West Indies, Richard Humphreys came to Philadelphia in 1764. Having witnessed the struggles of African Americans competing unsuccessfully for jobs due to the influx of immigrants, he became interested in their plight. In 1829, after race riots occurred in Philadelphia, Humphreys wrote his will and charged thirteen fellow Quakers to design an institution: “…to instruct the descendants of the African race in school learning, in the various branches of the mechanic arts, trades and agriculture, in order to prepare and fit and qualify them to act as teachers….”

From its initial founding until 1852, the African Institute, as it was known, was located on a 136 acre farm seven miles from Philadelphia on Old York Road. In 1849, the farm school closed for re-evaluation and the farm was sold. On October 22, 1849, the board authorized the re-opening of the school, and on November 5, 1849, an evening school opened on Barclay Street in Philadelphia where it continued to operate through the spring of 1851 until suitable quarters could be found to resume a day school program. Toward the end of July, 1851, the board found a better location for the school on two contiguous lots on the south side of Lombard Street (716-18). The purchase price was $3,244.

In 1902 the School moved to its current location and was still know as the Institute for colored youth. . In November of 1902, a committee of the Board of Managers recommended the purchase of a farm owned by Quaker farmer George Cheyney at Cheyney Station, Pennsylvania about twenty-five miles west of Philadelphia. The move to the expansive country location was deemed necessary in order for the Institute to increase academic offerings and, therefore, attract more students. In 1914 the name was changed to Cheyney Institute for Teachers.


Richard Allen Founds the Bethel Church in Philadelphia in 1794

Richard Allen was a Philadelphian minister, educator, and writer. He became one of America’s most influential early black leaders. In 1794 he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black church in the United States.  He opened his first AME church in 1794 in Philadelphia, Pa.  Allen worked to improve the social status of the black community in Philadelphia.  Later in 1787 Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society in Philadelphia. The Free African Society advocated and worked for the abolition of slavery and provided medical assistance for the poor.


Benjamin Banneker Early African American Scientist and Inventor

Benjamin Banneker was a mostly self-taught astronomer, inventor, mathematician, and writer of almanacs.  He was born to free parents in Maryland in 1731.  He owned a farm near Baltimore and was later called into service to assist in surveying land for the construction of Washington, DC, which would become that nation’s capital.  Banneker is also known form have written correspondence with Thomas Jefferson before he became president. In his letters Banneker politely challenged him to do what he could to ensure racial equality.

African people arrive in America in the late summer of 1619

In 1619 we have the first recorded documentation of African captives arriving in Jamestown Virginia. They arrived on a Dutch ship and they numbered about 20 people. The records are unclear if they were considered slaves or indentured servants.  There are earlier accounts of Blacks in America as explorers and Spanish conquistadors.  One such example is Esteban de Dorantes, or Esteban the Moor. Esteban was a native African who was enslaved as a Youth by the Portuguese and then sold to the Spanish.  In 1527 he was part of an expedition to establish a colony in Florida.

PEC: Revitalizing West Philadelphia One Neighborhood at a Time by Jasmine Bullock


Trish Downey

The People’s Emergency Center (PEC) has been dedicated to serving the homeless population in the city of Philadelphia for 45 years. The organization began as a small, weekend, student service ministry in 1972. Volunteers came together with a donated budget of $12,000 to house families and couples. By the 1980’s, daily services and a full – time staff were available to families in need. In the 1990’s, PEC was able to provide not only emergency shelter for families, but also added transitional and permanent housing to their catalog of services and assistance. Expansion continued in the early 2000’s with the addition of youth programs as well as computer labs and technology courses.

In 1992, the People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PECCDC) was established. The CDC uses a holistic approach to community development in order to provide quality programs to the Lower Lancaster neighborhoods. These neighborhoods include Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park, West Powelton, and most recently Parkside. The approach to aid the CDC uses builds on the assets of the community while simultaneously responding to residents needs by collaborating and creating connections to resources and partnerships.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the PECCDC. Some of the successes of the CDC, described by the Manager of External Communications Trish Downey, include 11 annual Jazz Festivals that are free to the public, 50 new business on the corridor since 2002 which has decreased the commercial vacancy rate from 35% to 23%, and an increase in high school graduation rates from 52% to 74%.

Much of the success of PEC and the PECCDC is due to the abundance of programs they offer to families and individuals that seek to increase their human capital in the community. The majority of the programs offered are free to not only the residents of PEC but also to all residents of the city.

Some of the most popular programs include the arts and culture programs whose most popular event is the Lancaster Avenue Jazz Festival, fitness programs that include nutrition classes as well as health fairs and a weekly food cupboard and digital literacy programs that include both youth and adult classes.

The Center for Employment and Training is also extensive. The program provides income support, financial counseling and employment training and placement in the neighborhoods PEC supports. The career readiness training includes courses in self-esteem, ServSafe certifications, customer service and sales, and computer literacy with a concentration in Microsoft Office. Upon the completion of career training, PEC ensures their participants continue to get support.

They are not only offered coaching sessions to aid in job searches but also continue to have sessions 18 months after finding employment to offer continued mentoring and advising to help participants keep the jobs they undoubtedly earned. Downey expressed that one of the most rewarding programs offered is the Community Connector program. Individuals participating in this program do street outreach. They travel to street fairs, health festivals and other events to share the resource and programs PEC has to offer.

PEC is able to maintain and continue to expand their programming because of the invaluable partnerships they establish with corporations, educational institutions, foundations and similar organizations. They are also connected to all the CDC organizations in the city of Philadelphia.  By maintaining these relationships, PEC is able to not only provide programming to various communities, they are able to aid various groups in their efforts to strengthen communities.

One special partnership PEC has is with Parkside’s West Park Cultural Center (WPCC). WPCC host’s GED classes at a PEC site. Downey described the class sessions as unique and specifically designed for the students. Program director Dr. Patricia Powell designed the class to function as a study group, focusing on areas students need the most help in. This allows those preparing for the exam to remain invested because they feel they are getting the help they need in a meaningful and personal method.

As PEC continues to grow, Downey has high hopes for the organization. It is her hope that as programming continues, the organization builds a new generation of advocates. They are fostering this growth by providing individuals with numerous volunteer and internship opportunities. PEC will also continue to be the human services giant that is strategic in their program offerings. They look to support those in immediate need, and continue to serve as many communities as possible, catering to not only homeless adults but also provide programming and awareness about homeless youth in the city of Philadelphia. Ultimately, Downey hopes that PEC will continue to be an agency that encourages citizens to live, and recreate in their home neighborhoods because of the great things that take place organically.


News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.