Watch Us In Your Living Room
Enjoy Very Local on the big screen.
Visit your favorite app store to download.

Three Pittsburgh Black history stories that you need to know

Did you know that the EMS service we used today was started in the Hill District?

by Lindsay Patross
February 26, 2021

Ajax Jones: the first Black Mayor of Pittsburgh

JaQuay Edward Carter is the founder of the Greater Hazelwood Historical Society and the BLACK HISTORY SOCIETY of Western Pennsylvania. JaQuay first learned about Ajax Jones while researching his great-grandmother who is buried in Sharpsburg in the same cemetery as August Wilson. JaQuay has uncovered so much history about Ajax Jones and Pittsburgh, we had to split it into two stories. Learn about Ajax Jones’s childhood in the Hill District, during a time when some of the houses were stops on the Underground Railroad. Part 2 of the story is about Ajax Jones’ life in city hall. He served under nine different mayoral administrations and as mayor to the city for three days during a change in administration. Check out our interview with JaQuay to learn more about the history of Hazelwood.

 

Freedom House Ambulance Service

The ambulance service that is used across the country today is based on the Freedom House Ambulance Service, a pioneering program in the hill district that trained Black men and women to be the first paramedics. You can learn more about Freedom House from NPR and the Stanford Medicine website. Watch this video from WTAE to learn more about Freedom House and hear from some of the Freedom House paramedics. [UPMC & UPMC Health Plan have recently launched Freedom House 2.0, a fellowship program to provide mentorship and healthcare training in the Hill District.]

 

The National Negro Opera Company

Mary Cardwell Dawson started the first African-American opera company in the country on Apple Street in Homewood. The archives for the National Negro Opera Company are part of the Library of Congress. The building where the National Negro Opera Company was started was recently named one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. You can see more photos of the Negro Opera Company and the building here. You can watch the WQED documentary on Mary Dawson and the National Negro Opera Company here.

 

More Pittsburgh Black History resources:

Do you know of another resource we should include on this list? Please let us know! Send an email to [email protected].


📸 Header photo credit: Freedom House paramedics with ambulance via the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh born and raised, Lindsay has been writing about the people who love Pittsburgh since 2008.

More Local Stories

Guide to EVERY independent bookstore in Pittsburgh

A guide to the independent bookstores in Pittsburgh. There are over a dozen independent bookstores in Pittsburgh that sell everything from new releases to mystery novels.

Handmade Halloween: Making your own costume is half of the fun

There are plenty of resources for your own DIY costume, and it won’t be the cheesy pom-pom gumball machine either.

You’ve heard them online, now watch Ed and Day in the ‘Burgh

The hosts behind the “Drinking Partners” podcast have a new series on Very Local’s streaming channel.

Here’s the scoop on Salty Paws, PA’s first doggie ice cream bar and bakery

Flavors of the sugar and dairy-free ice cream range from vanilla, banana cream and pumpkin to blueberry, bacon and cheddar cheese.

Indiana, PA: The Christmas Tree Capital of the World

Tracing its Christmas Tree roots back to 1918, local farmers are keeping the Christmas spirit alive just an hour from Pittsburgh in Indiana, PA.

The best local gift shops in Pittsburgh

Shop small and support local this holiday season. Just hop online OR ask about in-store shopping appointments at one of these three local gift shops.

The Farmers’ Market Co-op of East Liberty is open year-round

Every Saturday morning for the last 8 years, the Farmers Market Cooperative has been a mainstay in East Liberty. Get to know the families behind it.

It’s Turkey Lurkey Time! Where to buy a fresh turkey in Pittsburgh

All of the places to buy a fresh turkey in Pittsburgh

The Weeping Glass is a locally owned oddities shop that offers creepy and curious gifts year round

This oddities shop offers a selection of macabre gifts, curious antiques, restored radios, teas, taxidermy and other interesting things. 

Stones in the Steel City: A history of the Rolling Stones in Pittsburgh

From Danceland in West View to the Igloo, we take a look at when and where the Rolling Stones have performed in Pittsburgh. 

Independent Bookstores in Pittsburgh

Guide to EVERY independent bookstore in Pittsburgh

A guide to the independent bookstores in Pittsburgh. There are over a dozen independent bookstores in Pittsburgh that sell everything from new releases to mystery novels.

Handmade Halloween: Making your own costume is half of the fun

There are plenty of resources for your own DIY costume, and it won’t be the cheesy pom-pom gumball machine either.

Ed and Day in the 'Burgh in Carnegie, Pennsylvania

You’ve heard them online, now watch Ed and Day in the ‘Burgh

The hosts behind the “Drinking Partners” podcast have a new series on Very Local’s streaming channel.

Here’s the scoop on Salty Paws, PA’s first doggie ice cream bar and bakery

Flavors of the sugar and dairy-free ice cream range from vanilla, banana cream and pumpkin to blueberry, bacon and cheddar cheese.