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Doylestown Marks Black History Month

A borough councilwoman spurred the effort to uncover and record the histories of black men and women who helped shape Doylestown through the years.

When William Maultsby Sr. moved to Doylestown in 1924, he couldn't buy his home out near Cross Keys in his own name.

Maultsby was black.

Instead, he had to buy the home under the name of the family he worked for and transfer it to his name, his daughter Joanna Chatman recalled Monday night

Forty years later, when Chatman bought her home on Washington Street, the real estate agent walked up and down the street checking with neighbors to see if they minded a black family moving into the neighborhood.

It took another 50 years for an official effort to preserve, record and acknowledge the lives, histories and contributions that black men and women have made to Doylestown Borough.

But on Monday night, Chatman, now 79, and a standing-room-only crowd bore witness to that milestone.

After nearly an hour's worth of reminiscences, stories and congratulatory remarks, Doylestown Borough Council voted unanimously to recognize February as African American History Month.

Though Black History Month was recognized nationally in 1976, Monday was the first time Doylestown's local leaders marked the observance.

Borough Councilwoman Marlene Pray, who began the effort, presented copies of the official resolution to several people who helped compile information about the contributions of black Doylestown residents through the years.

Chatman was among them.

"I’m sorry my mother and father weren’t here to accept this," she said, as she held the proclamation in its blue folder.

Rev. Robert Hamlin, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Doylestown, thanked Pray and the council members for their action.

"We greatly appreciate this day and the efforts that went into putting this document together," said Hamlin, who has been pastor of the church since 1995.

The resolution highlights Doylestown’s "rich and deeply significant history of African-American families and individuals, a list of which includes but is hardly limited to:"

  • Civil War veteran Joseph B. Stratton and his wife Lillian, who moved to Doylestown in 1886
  • Their granddaughters Doreen and Judy Stratton, who still live in the Stratton home on Ashland Street
  • Walter Lewis, the first African American commander of Doylestown's American Legion Post 210
  • Randall Nelson, first African American in the United States to become a president of a Kiwanis Club and who helped integrate Fanny Chapman Pool
  • Gladys Nelson, the first African American hired by the Doylestown School District, as a school nurse
  • Levi G. Nelson and Melissa Bond, two African Americans who served on Doylestown Borough Council, Nelson in the 1890s and Bond 2005 to 2009

Borough Council's recognition of African American History Month symbolizes the progress that has been made throughout the decades, Doreen Stratton said Monday. Her father would have been proud.

"Daddy would have loved this day," Stratton said, beaming.

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