African-American Heritage Trail Debuts in Erie County, Pennsylvania

Photo by Greg Wohlford. Originally appeared in Erie Times-News.
(Left to Right) Mercyhurst University history profess Chris Magoc; Chair of Preservation Erie and Melinda Meyer; and historian, Johnny Johnson.

Suggested Reading

Article: You Ought to Know Johnny Johnson by Rebecca Styn

Article: Erie County African-American Heritage Tour Set to Debut by Ron Leonardi Notes from Articles listed above:

Johnny Johnson was born and raised in Covington, Ga. Johnson received a basketball scholarship to Savannah State but attended Clark Atlanta University instead. In a 2012 article with the Erie Reader, Johnson shared, ”I moved to Erie in 1969 during the time they had racial trouble in the city…They needed African-American Teachers, and they recruited some of us from the south.”

Johnson went on to spend 42 years with Erie (Pennsylvania) School District. He developed a number of education programs, including the community’s first Black History Month youth forum, a spelling bee, and an African-American newsletter ”intended to educate, inform, and uplift Erie’s African-American community.”

In 2012, Johnson was joined by Mercyhurst University history professor Chris Magoc, and Preservation Erie Chair Melinda Meyer. Together they produced the ”African-Americans in Erie County: A Trail of Shared Heritage, ” a driving/walking tour of more than 200 years of Erie County, Pennsylvania’s African-American history. The tour was recently published and made available to the public. 

The trio worked alongside the Mercyhurst University Thomas B. Hagen Department of History and Public History Program. Melinda Meyer explained that a lot of the physical evidence of Erie’s African-American historic sites had been lost in the last 100 years. Johnny Johnson said primary sources were used to identify the history of the 29 sites included in the tour.

The driving/walking tour is available on It includes a tour map and oral history interviews with leading contemporary voices of Erie County, Pennsylvania’s African-American Community. Congratulations to Johnny Johnson and his colleagues for seeing this 8-year project through and getting it to the people! 

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