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.

VeryLocal_Logo_Black_RGB_icon_small

More Local Stories

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. 

🎧 The best Pittsburgh podcasts to check out

There’s a smorgasbord of Pittsburgh entertainment and culture on podcast apps like Audible, Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. From business and health to entertainment and sports (and even more sports), you’ll find a PGH podcast to fit just about every genre.

For a real scream, rent Buffalo Bill’s House from “The Silence of the Lambs”

Buffalo Bill’s House in “The Silence of the Lambs” is the stuff of nightmares, but for diehard fans of the film, staying there is a dream come true. You can now rent the fictional serial killer’s abode in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania, which is 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Parties of up to eight people can relax in the fully furnished, 112-year-old home, watch the iconic movie and enjoy liver, fava beans and a nice Chianti in the kitchen.

Visiting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhoods: Latrobe, PA

Latrobe, Pennsylvania is the birthplace of Fred Rogers. Less than an hour from Pittsburgh, here is what to see in Mister Rogers’ Latrobe.

Nazis, Intimidation, and Espionage: How a St. Charles Mansion Became Part of a WWII Conspiracy

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood summer blockbuster — a vast campaign of espionage and propaganda taking place on U.S. soil that must be stopped before the fabric of America unravels. But this story isn’t fiction. Carried out from a stately St. Charles mansion, Baron Edgar von Spiegel, German Consul to New Orleans, undertook his campaign of intimidation, espionage, and misinformation.

Can’t-Miss Independent Bookstores 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.

A Big Numbers Hit in 1930 Created Pittsburgh Mob Legends

Meet some Pittsburgh mob legends and learn how a bet on the number 805 in 1930 changed gambling in the city of Pittsburgh.

At The Monster Mart in Oakmont you can get horror collectibles and spooky tattoos

Inside 802 Allegheny River Blvd. Richie Vomit and his wife Heidi sell action figures, masks, props, shirts and other creepy collectibles. Think of it as a year-round Spirit Halloween store with a punk rock attitude. It’s the perfect place for a spooky retail shop and tattoo studio.

Saturday is National Tattoo Day – here’s where you can get some fresh ink 💉

Maybe you’re ready to get your first tattoo and you don’t know where to go. Maybe you’re ready to add to your collection. Here’s a list (and pics) from some of the best shops in town.

📩 Need a beach trip? Go for a swim at Presque Isle State Park in Erie

Just a short 2-hour drive north of Pittsburgh, Presque Isle State Park offers beaches and relaxation.

Rolling Stones Pittsburgh

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. 

"Drinking Partners" - Ed Bailey (left) and Day Bracey, (Photos courtesy of Epicast Network)

🎧 The best Pittsburgh podcasts to check out

There’s a smorgasbord of Pittsburgh entertainment and culture on podcast apps like Audible, Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. From business and health to entertainment and sports (and even more sports), you’ll find a PGH podcast to fit just about every genre.

Photos courtesy of Buffalo Bill’s House.

For a real scream, rent Buffalo Bill’s House from “The Silence of the Lambs”

Buffalo Bill’s House in “The Silence of the Lambs” is the stuff of nightmares, but for diehard fans of the film, staying there is a dream come true. You can now rent the fictional serial killer’s abode in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania, which is 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Parties of up to eight people can relax in the fully furnished, 112-year-old home, watch the iconic movie and enjoy liver, fava beans and a nice Chianti in the kitchen.

mister rogers latrobe

Visiting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhoods: Latrobe, PA

Latrobe, Pennsylvania is the birthplace of Fred Rogers. Less than an hour from Pittsburgh, here is what to see in Mister Rogers’ Latrobe.