Searching for “Pressie”

A few weeks ago Joe Montone, Doylestown resident who produces events in town, invited me to become one of  four locals to premiere “Story Hood”, an evening of  stories about Doylestown to an audience of forty people. Each of our stories will be archived in the Spruance Library at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown. This is my story about the visitation of a Spirit.

It was 1975. After living in California for ten years, fate was telling me it was time to come home: I was laid off from my job at Atari; my in-laws were selling their home where I, my husband Rich and our two children lived; and then a message from home notified me my father was unwell.

Rich and I packed our stuff in a U Haul truck and along with two German Shepherds, a cat and  Melanie 3; and Mark 12. We drove across America to Doylestown, Pennsylvania. After storing our possessions in my parents’ garage, we lived at their house on Ashland Street for several months before finding a rental that allowed pets and children.

The House at 242 North Broad Street, a single standing brick house, about a hundred years old. It reminded me of those New Orleans “shotgun houses”. From the front door I could look down the hall, through to a room which I believe was once the kitchen with its squared fireplace large enough for an iron kettle. Then beyond there, a kitchen that was added later.

Also when entering the front door, before walking down a hallway, on the left was a parlor room with a fireplace (now closed and papered over with an ugly print). Across from the parlor room, stairs led to the second floor with a bathroom and three bed rooms.

The ceilings were 12 feet high with deep sills where house plants enjoyed morning sun. The ugly wallpaper was everywhere, but I really loved that old house!

(By the way, 242 was scraped, along with a few other structures on that block, replaced with the County parking garage).


Once settled, I invited my parents over for dinner, a huge thank you for putting up with us for all those months. I welcomed them at the front door, gesturing them inside. Mom continued walking down the hall to the next room, her artistic eye critiquing my hippy style of decorating. I turned to Daddy who’d paused at the doorway leading into the parlor. He was staring at the fireplace. In a whisper he said, “Oh … My Aunt Pressie was laid out here.” He added that he was six years old but remembered being in this house.

Wow! I thought, How weird! My ten years in California had connected me to some weird people. I just assumed this “Aunt Pressie” was an elder who had lived among the small circle of African Americans in Doylestown. I never thought anymore about it.

I went on unemployment, then worked for a medical equipment distributer, fiddled around with writing, and took up running the streets and roads of Doylestown.

When Melanie was10 years old, she came to me and said, “Mommy, there’s somebody in my room.” I asked her what she meant by “… somebody” and she said, “When I go to bed, I see Her standing in the corner by my closet.” Now to reach Melanie’s room, you passed through Mark’s room. Melanie’s room was small and above the kitchen. I’m guessing the kitchen below and Melanie’s room were added at the same time.

She took me to her room and pointed to a small closet in the corner. Then she said, “When I get into bed, She comes over and sits at the end of my bed.” On her bed, her stuffed animals were piled at the foot of her bed, as if blocking She from sitting there. Melanie said the visitations started a few nights ago. She wasn’t frightened, only curious why this visitor was in her room. Listening to Melanie describe these visits was acceptable to me. During my years in California one of my co-workers taught classes in metaphysics—auras, meditation, and healing. Strange things do happen.

A Failed Seance

A month or so later, when my niece Sara traveled to Doylestown for an Ashland Street family gathering, I shared the visitations with her. She suggested, “Let’s have a séance in her room.” Sara and I set candles and incense in Melanie’s room. We sat on the floor with knees crossed. Sara began speaking to the Room “We are here and feel safe with you. Please tell us who you are.” We sat for nearly fifteen minutes and I finally said, “Sara, nothing’s coming through. We gotta get back to the house with this food.”

We rented 242 N. Broad until 1983 when the owner decided to move into the house. We found another rental and shortly after that I was employed in former Congressman Peter H. Kostmayer’s district office in Doylestown.

The Past is Here

In the mid-1990s I moved into the family’s home on Ashland Street. Around 2007 people everywhere began researching information about their family histories or taking DNA tests, or traveling to ancestral homes, or digging through library archives and old photographs. That’s when my family, during one of our Sunday gatherings at Ashland Street rummaged through photographs saved by my Grandmother and Father. It was a pleasant summer afternoon. Sitting on the porch we passed around faded sepia photographs of relatives, many without names penciled on the backside, strangers possibly known only to my parents, both now dead.

In the early 1990s when Genealogist Joseph Romeo had documented our Stratton lineage, he discovered Tobias Stratton, a Free Black born 1767 in Philadelphia. Mr. Romeo carried the Stratton generations to the present, listing my brothers and sisters born to my parents, Savoy and Dorothy Stratton.

We have only one photograph of my Grandfather Joseph B Stratton, whom we affectionately refer to as “JB”. While discussions continued about photographs, I began reading the histories of JB’s three daughters born in his first marriage. After his wife died, JB kept the family together by marrying his deceased wife’s sister, a common arrangement in the 19th Century. In 1863 JB entered the Civil War serving a year in the Union Navy and returned home in 1864 to his daughters and second wife. No children were born from his second wife who died in 1875.

It would be another ten years before JB married Lilly, the woman who would become my Grandmother. I admit, although the Genealogist’s research was part of our family archives, I’d never paid any attention. Now I began reading the brief histories of JB’s three daughters from his first marriage. I realized These were my father’s half-sisters!

Priscilla—1858; Amelia—1860; and Matilda—1864

First-born Priscilla was widowed twice; bore nine children, including a set of twins, stillborn. Sometime after her second husband died in 1896, she relocated to Doylestown from Philadelphia. JB and Lilly had already been settled at our Ashland Street home; Priscilla moved into 242 N. Broad Street. I stopped reading and shouted, “My God! JB’s daughter Priscilla lived at our Broad Street house!” Now I was shaking. “She died in 1906 and she’s buried in Doylestown Cemetery!”

While everybody gathered around, we never noticed Melanie hovering over some unidentified scattered photographs. “Hey”, she said, holding up one of them. “This is the woman who was in my bedroom.” We stared at the image. Melanie insisted this was the woman who stood in the corner of her bedroom and then sat at the foot of her bed.


Immediately I called the cemetery but being Sunday, had to leave a message asking the location of Priscilla Newman who died in 1906. Instead we drove over to the cemetery, anticipating we’d find Pressie’s marker. We split up and roamed the paths, searching for Priscilla Newman. No luck; but since we were there, we stopped at the grave where my father, mother and an uncle are buried.

The following day the custodian at the cemetery called me. “Priscilla Newman is buried in the Pauper Section. I’ll meet you there.”

He had a stone where she was buried. This section is immediately across from the section where my family’s headstone is sited. While standing at the stone marking Pressie’s grave, Melanie described how the day before she had been drawn to this space of grass.

We siblings, descendants of JB Stratton, pooled our money and purchased a marker for Pressie’s grave. My father was six years old when he had walked into 242 N. Broad Street, startled as he whispered, “Aunt Pressie was laid out in front of the fireplace.” Was he aware he was her half-brother? Yet being only six years old, my Grandmother possibly instructed him to call her “Aunt Pressie”.

Seventy years after Pressie was laid in the ground, I believe she was waiting for my family to move into 242 N. Broad Street so that we, her ancestors would place the headstone she so well deserved.

Black History Month

Photograph by
Doreen Stratton

It is the time to reflect on 1619, when the first Africans set their feet on American soil. They were my ancestors. I identify as an African American even though half of my DNA traces to a few European nations. So . . . when someone had told me, “go back to Africa!” — I did . . . in 1999, I set my feet on the African soil of Ghana.

Prior to that, I’d never held a kinship to the Continent. Growing up in Doylestown where only a handful of ‘colored people’ lived, the awareness of my ancestral heritage was limited. At age 11 or 12, leafing through the pages of National Geographic Magazines, discovering black and white pictures of Africans with dark skin in loin cloth or tufts of grass covering their ‘privates’; and women with exposed breasts (always) adorned with necklaces of animal teeth or bone, staring at those images, I asked myself, Is that me? I had never realized my ancestral genealogy reached back to Africa.

Go Back and Get It

My August 12, 2020 blog post–Sankofa–the Ghanaian proverb meaning Go back and Get It. How ironic! When I went “back”, I returned to America with pride for my legacy. That post had described my African American cultural tour of Cape Coast Castle (now a designated historical site) built by the Swedes in 1653 to protect their plundered goods. The tour included a second castle which I now share for this Black History Month. Elmina Castle was built in 1482 by the Portuguese. Also a fort and designated historical site, this massive structure became the settlement where gold, timber, and later, Africans were plundered and shipped across the globe. Elmina has the distinction as the site of The Door of No Return, the last image Africans saw before herded onto ships. Although the Portuguese loaded Africans on the ship— Sau Joao Bautista, English pirates on The White Lion raided the Portuguese ship in the Gulf Coast (now Mexico) and carried some “twenty” Africans to the Virginia coast of what is now Hampton Roads. The year was 1619.

Our docent for the Elmina tour led us into a cobblestoned patio enclosed on all sides by three levels of balconies. He pointed to the highest balcony—the headquarters of the fort’s Portuguese leader. “The Elmina governor lived there.” Then the docent pointed to a ground floor room with bars that filled the door frame. “Women were kept there. They birthed their babies in that room.”

The docent described how the governor would lean on the railing from his 3rd floor porch, look down and order an underling to bring half a dozen women from the caged room. From above he would look at each of them and select one be brought to him. If the woman resisted, she was chained to a cannon ball which was secured in the cobblestone floor. I stared at the ball and wondered how many women had failed to free themselves to grind such a hole in the stone?

Women's cage

     (Photograph by Doreen Stratton)

I snapped a picture of the ball and chain then entered the room which had detained the women. The door was heavy. The walls of the room still carried a weak yellow pigment. I stood in the center of the room, raised my camera, and held my breath before the CLICK but immediately an odor overwhelmed me. The walls, even after 500 years, screamed with echoes of women’s blood and piss and shit and afterbirth. Instead I turned and aimed my camera to the tourists. I left the room in tears. Who could be so evil?

Sojourn from Books to

During a visit to the Doylestown Historical Society, there were several donated books lazily spread on their coffee table, all topics about African American history. Three captured my curiosity: Before Freedom by Belinda Hurmence; Lumumba, a biography by Robin McKown and Bound for Canaan by Fergus E. Bordewich. “Can I have these?” Those and other books by African American authors and historians now overflow one of my bookshelves. Searches on have enriched my family as we have discovered descendants and archival material  about our ancestors.

Reached back, Returned with Legacy

On this Black History Month, there are schools absent from learning about the African American experience. In 2020 and 2021 I presented Out From Slavery—from Africa to Freedom–to a Civics Class at Lenape Middle School. Their teacher, Andrew Burgess is an Educator I admire for his skill of  encouraging Knowledge to his students. I won’t visit this year’s February class because the Central Bucks School Board has become a Board of Banners. Mr. Burgess was transferred from Lenape to another Middle School for defending LGBTQ+ rights. The students who are now learning from him are truly blessed!

I expect the Central Bucks School Board’s next goal is to erase African American History, which some Pennsylvania schools have already done. As I write this, there are members within the Harrisburg legislature determined to pull the threads of Black History from Democracy’s Colorful Quilt of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Ignorance is a dangerous thing. When browsing your social media sites this month, if an interesting piece about Black History appears, pause, read and learn.

Searching for “Pressie”

A few weeks ago Joe Montone, Doylestown resident who produces events in town, invited me to become one of  four locals to premiere “Story Hood”, an evening of  stories about Doylestown to an audience of forty people. Each of our stories will be archived in the Spruance Library at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown. This…

Life in Pennsylvania Prisons

“I now realize how the consequences of my crime affected the victim and her family.” —Naim Ali Bonner, SCI Graterford Entered 1974, Died in prison 1995 Dear Dr. Oz: You Know Nothing about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system for those serving life sentences. Now the Truth: In Pennsylvania The Board of Pardons hears…

Segregated Summers, 1958

I recalled some childhood memories after reading the articles about Fanny Chapman Pool. One piece appeared in the PATCH on July 21 (“Fanny Chapman Pool marks 95th anniversary”) and then again in the Bucks County Herald on July 25 (“At Age 95 Chapman Pool Still One Of The Coolest Places In Doylestown”). Fanny Chapman is…

Life in Pennsylvania Prisons

“I now realize how the consequences of my crime affected the victim and her family.”

—Naim Ali Bonner, SCI Graterford Entered 1974, Died in prison 1995

Dear Dr. Oz: You Know Nothing about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system for those serving life sentences.

Now the Truth: In Pennsylvania The Board of Pardons hears an inmate’s plea for clemency. If a majority of the Board of 5 approves the application, it is the Governor who declares a “yes” or “no”. Pennsylvanians should NOT believe the Oz ad.

Hearings are scheduled for Life sentenced inmates who have petitioned the Board of Pardons for Clemency. Other than death in a cell, a Lifer is only granted release from prison by Clemency. In Pennsylvania the Board of Pardons (as required by our State Constitution) consists of the Lt. Governor, the Attorney General, a Corrections Specialist, a Doctor of Medicine, Psychologist or Psychiatrist, and a Victims Representative.

If you visit The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons website, there is a link about Pennsylvania History of the Pardons that reaches back to 1872.

Here is the legend of Pennsylvania’s Governors from 1971 through 2015:

  • Democrat Governor Shapp’s term from1971 through1978: the Board of Pardons heard 733 applications. 251 (including 7 females) were Granted Clemency.
  • During the Republican terms of Governors Thornburgh, Ridge, Schweiker and Corbett from 1979 through 2014: 390 Petitions for Clemency were heard; Only 8 were Granted Clemency.
  • From 2015 to present, under Democrat Governor Wolfe: the Board of Pardons heard 100 applications; Governor Wolfe granted 53, 7 of them were females.

Many apply; few go Free.

In 1991 I became an advocate for people behind bars as a volunteer with Bucks County Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 210. VVA’s National Charter includes support for Vietnam Veterans Incarcerated. As the Editor of Pennsylvania’s VVA State Newspaper (The Keystone Veteran), my tasks included joining my VVA 210 members and other state Chapter Veterans for the yearly visit to a maximum-security prison in Pennsylvania. At that time there were approximately 400 Vietnam Veterans in Pennsylvania prisons, for offenses including armed robbery, drugs, arson, assault or 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree murder, crimes inmates often shared during my conversations with them. SCI Graterford in Montgomery County was the first of four different state prisons I visited during my years with VVA 210.

In 2003 I became familiar with the Commutation process while assisting a Vietnam Veteran Lifer with his application to the Board of Pardons. Almost always these men and women apply to the Board after they’ve served 20 years or more. The application is a self-examination of how the inmate pursued his/her rehabilitation while evolving into a person who accepts responsibility for his/her crime and returns to become a contributing member of the community.

During the period from 1979 through 2014, sentencing laws changed, prison populations swelled, and the Prison Industrial Complex became the money maker. When I walked into SCI Graterford in 1991 for the first time there were 7 prisons across Pennsylvania. Today there are 23.

On my July 16, 2015 blog The Bucks Underground Railroad, I posted “It’s about time”. I’ve included the link and hope you will read it.

I’ve always wondered why prisons are called “Departments of Correction”. Prisons are about punishment not rehabilitation. Any rehabilitation usually come from the will of an inmate who chooses not to waste away in a 6’ x 8’ cell. A 20-year Lifer preparing for his commutation told me how five years into his sentence he said, “Sitting in the yard that day it hit me. I was here for Life. That’s when I decided to begin my rehabilitation.”

Citizens, Dr. Oz failed in his attempt to scare you with that campaign ad. Don’t believe the noise.

Segregated Summers, 1958

I recalled some childhood memories after reading the articles about Fanny Chapman Pool. One piece appeared in the PATCH on July 21 (“Fanny Chapman Pool marks 95th anniversary”) and then again in the Bucks County Herald on July 25 (“At Age 95 Chapman Pool Still One Of The Coolest Places In Doylestown”). Fanny Chapman is where I learned how to swim and gathered the nerve to dive off the high board.

We were “Colored people” living in Doylestown yet had been denied the privilege of swimming at the pool. The reason our father explained, was because the water would become “dirty”. My days of summer in Doylestown had consisted of hanging out at the playground, hitting a tennis ball against our tennis court’s back stop or sitting on the porch with a book, pausing in envy whenever a group of kiddos walked past our house, carrying their bathing suits rolled up in a towel, either on their way to or coming from the pool. 

My cousin Nancy Nelson, was also aware of our denial to swim at the pool. Her father Randall Nelson, the owner of Nelson’s Barber Shop on State Street was active in the Doylestown community. After the pool’s deed of trust dissolved in 1956 and ownership was transferred to Doylestown Borough, Randall Nelson approached the Council and asked the pool open its membership to people of color. In the summer of 1958, I was 12 years old and along with my sister and cousins, for the first time could jump in the shallow end of Fanny Chapman Pool.

Search Segregated Swimming Pools and dozens of articles pop up. The long history of denying people of color the privilege of swimming in a pool still continues in places across America. There was one incident when water from a pool was emptied after Black people were removed from a pool. A book published in 2010 by Jeff Wiltse, an Associate Professor of History at University of Montana-Missoula: Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, examines how attitudes toward race, class, gender and community are factors in segregated swimming pools.

A July 12, 2021 ABC-5 Cleveland television article by DaLaun Dillard noted that drowning statistics are 64% for Blacks as compared to 40% to whites. The ages of 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 are most vulnerable. If a child hasn’t learned how to swim then ponds, streams, lakes or ocean beaches are the waters that bring death on hot summer days.


The Juneteenth flag was created in 1997 by Boston activist Ben Haith. The design’s Red, White and Blue reflects America’s Declaration of Independence. The Arc curving across the middle represents New Horizons for African Americans. The Nova in the center is the astronomical burst of new beginnings for African Americans

Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day or Emancipation Day, became a National Holiday on June 19, 2021 after President Joe Biden signed it into Law.

The history of Juneteenth began when President Abraham Lincoln, after much thought, crafted The Emancipation Proclamation to free enslaved persons in Confederate states. Dated September 22, 1862 it became effective on January 1, 1863. With the Civil War raging, the freed Blacks could possibly join the Union effort and help bring the collapse of slavery.

Through General Order No. 3, the task of spreading the Proclamation was assigned to Union Army Major General Gordon Granger. He mustered his troops and tread across the southern states and territories announcing the end of slavery. On June 19, 1865 the General arrived in Galveston, Texas where Order No. 3 was posted at Union Army Headquarters, the Customs House and the Negro Church on Broadway. At that time there was an estimated 250,000 enslaved people living and working on plantations of owners who’d fled the Civil War in the east. The date “June 19” quickly spread throughout the enslaved community melding the two words into Juneteenth.

Emancipation ushered in the Reconstruction era where for a few decades beginning in 1869 through 1901, nearly two dozen freed Blacks were elected to Congress. Some Blacks farmed their own land and schools opened for Black children. Celebrations of Juneteenth which began in the south soon spread among other African American communities with parades, picnics and speeches.

On Juneteenth is a book by Annette Gordon-Reed, a Pulitzer Prize Winner and Texas Native. This easy to carry book of 141 pages was published in 2021. Gordon-Reed, who grew up in Texas, offers the reader a quick introduction to Juneteenth’s inception and that state’s early life before it became part of the Union in 1845.

“Galveston Texas June 19th 1865.

General Orders    No. 3.

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

. . .    

“The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

          “By order of Major General Granger

                    F.W. Emery

                    Major A.A. Genl.

Reading out of context

Across America School Board meetings have become contentious environments, where extremist groups express their bigotry against marginalized people, be it their race, ethnicity, gender identity or religion. One active and well entrenched group in Bucks County is—

Woke Pennsylvania:

“a grass roots organization working to reclaim our schools”.

This group planned to read sexually explicit passages at the March 8 Central Bucks School Board Meeting. The passages, lifted from LGBTQ published books—can be found on the woke website. Public comments limited to 3 minutes, are scheduled at the top of the meeting’s agenda.

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, Nobel Laurate and recipient of numerous literary honors, is one of the books on the Woke website. I decided to attend and read a selection from this her first novel, published in 1970. Three of her novels and one of her nonfiction books snuggle on my bookshelf. “The Bluest Eye” isn’t among my four; however, a dear friend lent me her copy.

Morrison’s words sing across the page. When reading the sentences, I’m in awe of the story she weaves. I settled on a passage from the first few pages where words always entice a reader to turn the pages until reaching The End.

Thirty-eight people registered to speak. The room was full. I recognized the usual suspects—attendees from the previous four meetings. As each strode to the dais, they announced the title then filled with indignation, read the excerpt. Then they demanded the book “… be removed from the school library”.

While waiting my turn, I scanned the room, wondering how many of this vociferous crowd had ever voted prior to the 2021 school board elections. The crowd is also displeased with some of the sitting board members, calling out their names demanding they resign.  A speaker from an extremist political action committee—Back to School PA—furiously waved a glossy 4-page document, exclaiming that ‘dark money!’ helped elect 3 Democrats to the board.

(If you visit the Central Bucks School District website, there is a link to a recording of the February 8 meeting. The public comments begin at 30.00 minutes.)

There were speakers advocating for the Library Bill of Rights—American Library Association policies for school libraries as well as several others who opposed removing books from school libraries. A retired teacher—Speaker #16 and recorded at 1.17.15–spoke eloquently how books help some children “… make sense of their lives”.

I remember when a handful of people would attend these meetings. The Covid virus along with decisions to open or close schools and policies regarding masked or no masked students, pushed any concerns about education to the back of the room. Now, the book banners are in Bucks County and stealing all the oxygen out of the air.

The next Central Bucks School Board at 70 Weldon Drive, Doylestown, is scheduled Tuesday, April 12, at 7 pm.

We were called “Pinkos”

Using nuclear power to generate electricity is like using a chainsaw to slice a pat of butter.

Hal Marcovitz’s 12/30/21 piece in the Herald about the Point Pleasant Pumping Station stirred memories of my activism with the Central Bucks Clean Energy Collective. Any old heads still in Bucks that had protested the pump, know the “Collective” was an upstart group of environmentalists against withdrawing up to 95 gallons of water a day from the Delaware River. The water, diverted across Bucks and Montgomery County through streams and reservoirs, was destined to the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant near Pottstown, for cooling the fuel rods in the reactor.

After the March 28, 1979 accident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in Harrisburg, the anti-nuke protests ramped up in Bucks and many places across America. We never were able to verify a rumor that PECO initially had proposed to build their nuclear plant along the bucolic banks of Pt. Pleasant. Once denied, their compensation prize was the pumping station.

People power escalated. Letters flooded local and area newspapers, citizens showed up at the Wednesday Bucks County Commissioners’ meetings–many speaking eloquently and with knowledge, about nuclear power and saving the Delaware. At one special County Commissioners meeting, the anti-nukes outnumbered the other side, composed mostly of construction workers, builders and realtors. Abby Hoffman came out of hiding and settled in Bucks County helping with organizing peaceful protests.

We even marched in a couple local parades carrying our huge banner with a lonely duck in the water saying, No Delaware Water To Limerick. Labeled “Pinkos” by pro-pumpers, in the early 80s, the Clean Energy Collective sponsored a Teach-in at Buckingham Friends School with workshops on conservation, solar panels, solar voltaic cells and wood burning stoves. I presented the path of uranium from its mining on Native lands to its radioactive half-life burial in the ground. Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey was our Keynote Speaker, probably the only member at that time in the early 80’s who could speak about energy policies.

By 1988 when construction of the pumping station began, over a hundred protestors staged a demonstration. Arrests were made. When a lawsuit filed by environmental group Del Aware suing Bucks County, PECO and Montgomery County Water Authority, construction was halted for months. The Court battle ended, the pump was built and interestingly, houses began popping out of the ground all over Montgomery County. Some years ago the Pt. Pleasant Pumping Station shut down, its walls collapsing into one other.

In recent years proponents for alternative energies are speaking with loud voices. Construction costs for nuke plants is astronomical; yet the “suits” are beating the drums to build again. There’s talk about conservation and wind or solar funding but the solar industry in America is pretty much owned by China.

In a November 22, 2021 Pottstown Mercury article by Evan Brandt—

“The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has signed off on a plan by Exelon Corp. to divest itself of its fleet of 23 nuclear power reactors, including the two at the Limerick Generating Station.

Exelon Corp. will transfer the NRC licenses to a new company, currently called HoldCo, as part of a corporate restructuring, the NRC announced on Nov. 17.

There is no money changing hands.”


Reading in the Time of COVID

During the worst months of the COVID lockdown, I’d read five non-fiction books focused on the African American experience. My first was Historian David W. Blight’s biography–Frederick Douglass Profit of Freedom; then two books written by Isabel Wilkerson–Caste and The Warmth Of Other Suns; then the autobiography Becoming by Michelle Obama; and lastly Annette Gordon-Reed’s Juneteenth.

I finished reading the last of the five books just as the hottest educational topic, Critical Race Theory (CRT) became the lightning rod for attendees screaming at school board meetings. To be clear, this is the meaning of CRITICAL RACE THEORY (CRT):  A curriculum designed for discussion at the university level by law students.

Extremists on the right successfully grabbed CRT and reduced it to a lesson that is taught to students from elementary to high school. Not True.

It didn’t stop there. A school board representing students in York, Pennsylvania announced their banning of nearly 50 books for grades K through Senior High. Numerous books on this list were written by African Americans or other people of color—some from outside America. Students’ protests were successful in forcing the York School Board to revisit their decision.

The five non-fiction books I’d read during COVID will go on the shelves of my bookcase along with works about the Vietnam War, religion, politics, women, government, science, Native Americans, biographies, children’s books, fiction and metaphysics. Among this eclectic assortment of books are seven authors whose writings have been banned: William Styron, John Steinbeck, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, W.E.B. DuBois, J.K. Rowling and Vladimir Nabokov.

One other slim but powerful book on my shelf is the image below. Eleven published writers associated with PEN International (Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists). As noted on the front cover, “Burn This Book is a collection of essays that explore the meaning of censorship and the power of literature to inform the way we see the world, and ourselves.”

Edited by and with an introduction by Toni Morrison.

My next post will include a review of Historian David W. Blight’s award-winning biography–Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom. I hope to counter the ignorance about African American history often expressed by those who say–“Black people need to move on… stop talking about the past.”

Science — 1793

Someone once told me, a book often languishes on our shelves, patiently waiting for the time when we will finally read it. In 1984 I had spotted “The Book of Philadelphia” by Robert Shackleton at a book fair, piled among many others on a table with a poster stuck at the top that announced: FREE BOOKS! My eye had caught the title because some of my ancestors had settled in Philadelphia. I grabbed the book, carried it home and there it rested until about a month ago when I pulled it off the shelf.

Published in 1918, the pages of “The Book of Philadelphia” radiate a musty odor wafting up from heavy fibered paper, indicative of books published a hundred years ago. The edges of each page are lined with a brownish tinge while some pages throughout the book, display sketches, either of streets, buildings or people—each image protected by a leaf of delicate tissue, yellowed with age.

I skimmed through the book and paused when discovering a few sentences about the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia.

What a coincidence! Bucks County is in the midst of a Covid epidemic. In addition to the hospitalized and the dead, people are refusing the vaccination and/or wearing masks. There have been protests against closures and lots of unhinged individuals behaving badly in public spaces. Compared to this 21st Century pandemic chaos, how I wondered, did the People of Philadelphia survive the 1793 pandemic? Mr. Shackleton devoted two pages where he briefly mentioned Dr. Benjamin Rush; the plague and treatment, just enough to whet my curiosity.

That year of 1793 the population in Philadelphia was around 50,000. Shackleton describes a city already established with narrow streets and brick row houses. In August 1793 the first death was reported. Soon thereafter people were dying in the streets. Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, became the leader in fighting the plague, soon identified as Yellow Fever. The doctor believed “putrid exhalations” in the air caused the disease; and he ordered cleaning the unsanitary conditions at the docks, rotting food, and the sewage system.

Dr. Rush organized crews to roam the city, pick up the dead and carry them to burial sites. Philadelphia was the Nation’s Capital. Soon nearly 20,000 people fled this hot and humid summer including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and much of the federal government taking refuge in Germantown. Some citizens blamed the plague on blacks arriving in Philadelphia after fleeing the revolution in the French Caribbean colony (now Haiti).

The doctor believed the blacks were immune to the disease and pleaded for help from black community leader Absalom Jones, an abolitionist and clergyman who founded the first African Methodist Episcopal Church. The African Americans became instrumental in all tasks from nursing, cart drivers, coffin makers and grave diggers. When the plague began infecting the black community with sickness, 240 African Americans died. The estimate by modern scholars is that close to 5,000 people died during the plague. It spared no one.

Absalom Jones

There was no cure or vaccine for Yellow Fever. Samuel A. Gum’s article described how Dr. Rush kept meticulous notes and developed a treatment of “…blood leaching and purging …a mercury compound as a method to purge the bowels.” When the doctor fell ill with Yellow Fever, he instructed one of his assistants administer the treatment to him. He survived as well as many other hundreds of others who received his treatment.

I close with this: Considering that 200 years ago, the various ingredients Dr. Rush must have experimented with, it was Science that saved those lives.


(An undated article published in the Pennsylvania Center For The Book, titled “Philadelphia Under Siege: The Yellow Fever of 1793” by Samuel A. Gum Philadelphia was my source for much of this post.)

The portrait of Dr. Benjamin Rush can be viewed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. This is the cover of a biography written by Harlow Giles Unger, September 11, 2018. Dr. Rush was also the Founder of Dickinson College, where a statue has been placed.


(Photos by Doreen Stratton)


“This is what Democracy looks like!”

That message was shouted by hundreds of citizens at rallies held on the Doylestown Court House lawn. The former guy is gone but he dropped a trail of destruction after his four years in office when he nearly shredded the U.S. Constitution.

On April 6, 2016 I posted “The Power of Voting” on my blog The Bucks Underground Railroad. In the five years since then, much has changed. That post had referenced the book, “BOUND for CANAAN” by Fergus M. Bordewich—an author of several nonfiction books about 17th 18th and 19th Century America.

Near the end of “BOUND… “, Bordewich wrote about the Elgin Settlement in Buxton, Canada–a community of fugitive slaves. By the 1860s this sanctuary–established by the Presbyterian Synod—had settled mostly Blacks who had fled the oppression of America for a new “home”. No longer chattel, they were Canadian citizens with all the Rights of Freed men. They worked their own land or earned a living in their shops.

White Canadians in Buxton opposed the Blacks in their country. They circulated a petition describing Blacks as “…a distinct species of the Human Family … far inferior to that of the European.”

Edwin Larwill, publisher of the local newspaper and Canadian Parliament member, announced his candidacy for office on a platform to establish a poll tax. But Reverend William King—a co-founder of the Elgin Settlement—reached out to every fugitive slave eligible to vote after he learned of Larwill’s plans, which included sending the fugitive slaves back to America. Rev. King then registered these new Canadian citizens to vote. It resulted in Edwin Larwill losing and the descendants of the freed slaves who had arrived in Buxton in 1849–still there to this day.

NOW:  THIS is what white Privilege looks like!

The threat of Free and Fair Elections in America is here. According to a June 10, 2021 article in “Mother Jones”, 24 new laws in 14 states have been created to suppress the Right to Vote, pushed by the zealous supporters of #45. Unable to accept defeat, they’ve ripped off their superior blinders and discovered America’s New Map.

America has become a bowl of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. When mixed together, America is now a delicious taste to the palate.

I can’t wrap my head around the men and women whose allegiance to the US Constitution  Protect and Preserve has morphed into bowing down to a dangerously unbalanced man. Truth be told, the pale faces sitting silent in the U.S. Congress and state legislative bodies across America, have sucked up too many creamsicles.

ALL of them are suffering from brain freeze.

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