Just another Germantown blog

“I left South Carolina at 1:30 P.M. on December, 28 1955. It was exactly 10 days after my 18th birthday. I had a cardboard suitcase and $1.50,” said Tony Chandler. Prior to December, 28 1955, Mr. Chandler lived on his parent’s farm, called Cedar Swamp, in South Carolina. An avid historian, Chandler can trace his family and their property back to his ancestor’s slave master and the division of the farm after the Civil War. His family still carries the slave master’s last name and lives on Cedar Swamp, their post-war acquisition.

Click here for more facts on Chandler’s birthplace of Kingstree, S.C.

            What Mr. Chandler may not have known however, is that he is an important participant in one of the greatest events in the history of the nation that he loves- The Great Migration. Due to the vast numbers of migrants and the decades-long time span, the Great Migration has perhaps yet to receive the amount of significance and research that it deserves. However, starting in 1940, 7 million African Americans moved out of the South and relocated to various cities in the North.

            Chandler, after recognizing the lack of opportunities in South Carolina, was one of them. Unlike other stories, Chandler recalls segregation but not active, violent racism in his journey to Washington, D.C. and later to Philadelphia. Growing up in South Carolina, he first set his sights on college, and after realizing that that was unlikely, he stopped attending high school all together. What may have seemed like a move to “drop-out” to some people was merely a transitional act that would benefit Chandler by means of education and success throughout his life.

            The North allowed him to complete high school and then college and Chandler proceeded to live a prosperous and successful “American Dream.” Literally working his way through school and up the East Coast, he started in a Chinese restaurant and eventually progressed to the United States Mint office, where he contributed in the design of influential coins and was an integral member of the teams that created Congressional medals of Honor for Nelson Mandela and the Pope. His memory of the process that resulted in the 2000 introduction of the Commemorative Quarters decorated with each of the 50 states is remarkable. He can tell you about the thickness of the coin, the sandblasting technique to perfect the pattern and exactly what temperature the dye needed to be to make the imprint permanent.

Click here for a closer look at the Commemorative Quarters

Like the coins he designed, Tony Chandler’s story will be imprinted in America’s memory. His story is similar to, but at the same time unique from, those of the Great Migration. When confronted with questions of racism, his response is simple and calm before he directs the conversation back to his work and the positive aspects of his life. The story that Chandler’s life tells is one of triumph. Recognizing the oppressive laws towards African Americans in 1955, Tony Chandler knew that if he stayed on his parent’s farm would eventually become a product of his environment. So, he changed his environment.

Click here for a narrated tribute to Tony Chandler


Tony Chandler- Living Library

Goals and Guidelines

Our goal upon meeting Mr. Chandler is to establish a sense of familiarity.  The first thing we will do is introduce ourselves, giving a background of who we are. We want him to feel comfortable but at the same time understand what we are doing with our project. This calls for complete openness between our group and Mr. Chandler.  To increase his comfort level, we will engage him in conversation, and if he enjoyed the lecture. 

Next, we will begin with an abbreviated interview without prying answers from him. This should be a relaxed and informative conversation.  If there should be any lull in the conversation, we will switch to a different topic.   

We want to be on his level – making it  an even playing field.    As a group we each come from different backgrounds, but at the same time, we don’t know as much as Mr. Chandler.  We want to pose our questions in a way that makes us seem inquisitive, not naive.  We want to put experience to the facts that we know.  Our group believes this is well-rounded reporting.

 Questions and Conversation

Below are the questions that our group will use on Mr. Chandler on March 21:

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. Do you have any fond memories of your birthplace?
  3. What brought you to Philadelphia?
  4. Who did you move with?
    1. Did your family move later?
    2. What mode of transportation did you use to get to Philadelphia?
    3. What was your first job here?
    4. Did you go to school?
    5. When you were younger where was your favorite place to hang out?
    6. If someone talks about the “Great Migration” what comes to mind?

10.  Do you see it as an important event in American history?

11.  Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

We’re not sure how much time we will have.  So, we have additional questions that if have the time, we will use.  We can always save our extra questions for the March 28 meeting:

  1. What was family-life like in Philadelphia?
  2. Did you get along with your neighbors?
  3. When you first got to Philadelphia (or later) did you join a church or any other Philly-based organization?
  4. Could you compare and contrast your hometown and Philadelphia?

 Tony Chandler-Movie Star

From a video perspective, we think one of the easiest ways to calm the nerves of Mr. Chandler is to not have the camera directly in front of him. Putting the camera in front of him might make him focus solely on being taped and limit the amount of depth that we are trying to get in this interview. What we want to do is to tape Mr. Chandler on a 45 degree angle. This would create some depth in the shot as well as allow us to have Mr. Chandler not look at the camera when he is talking, hopefully allowing us to get the information we need.

 Roles, Rules and Regulations

Roles throughout the interview process:

-Video: Anthony

-Interviewing: Erin

-Note taker: Sara

“In a way, it has just begun”

– Nicholas Lemann, author of “The Promised Land.”


The Great Migration is not something that typically comes to the average American’s mind when thinking about Civil Rights- in fact, you may have no idea what I’m even talking about.   It is wrapped in layers of many other significant parts of the twentieth century, a time during which America underwent major changes. The Great Migration began, author Nicholas Lemann says, in the early 1940s and lasted until the 1960s. It consisted of 6 million African Americans leaving the oppression of the South and setting out for the North. However, there is no clean cut ending to the story of the Great Migration. It is still being written by the future generations of those courageous men and women who forced America to open her eyes to the tragedy of race relations.

Isabel Wilkerson, whose parents traveled North, provides a detailed account of the Great Migration by interviewing 1,000 people for her book The Warmth of Other Suns. Click this link to hear her speak about her book and the impact that the Great Migration had on America. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129827444

“There were rumors that the machine was close to being perfected, finally”
From a historical and academic standpoint, it is easy to point to sharecropping as the event that kicked off the Great Migration. According to Lemann, one machine was able to do the work of 50 humans on the cotton plantations, and most African Americans were left unemployed.
“The marriage of a person of Caucasian blood with a Negro, Mongolian, Malay, or Hindu shall be null and void”
The Jim Crow segregation laws serve as a reminder to all Americans that violence and inequality were once accepted here. From barber shops to burials, citizens were shamelessly excluded from the advantages of being an American.  As these laws were being enforced, it became increasingly apparent to Southern blacks that the time had come to move out and move North.
For a full list of the Jim Crow Laws, visit http://academic.udayton.edu/race/02rights/jcrow02.htm
“This could be done without undertaking the fool’s errand of trying to persuade people of racial utopia.”
It is impossible to summarize what exactly 5 million black Americans found when they reached their Northern destination, but Lemann’s narrative follows a few of these men and women and their introduction to whites that went out of their way to integrate their communities and take baby steps toward progress. There were also those whites that chose to leave their city once blacks had migrated there. Most of these affluent families that fled their homes out of ignorance left behind a neighborhood of blacks that were so oppressed by unequal labor laws that they struggled to provide for their families. Demographically, America changed. Socially, it was in no way perfect.
“The racial situation as it stands today is not permanent”
The Great Migration, although it gets little recognition, changed America in almost every way possible. It changed the demographic of our cities and the economics of the entire country. It brought up new social issues and forced the average white citizen, not just politicians to deal with issue of racism together. America is still a work in progress, but to change the future, we must remain educated on the past.

Last weekend, Emily and I went back to Germantown. This time, we had recorders instead of cameras and were looking for people who were ready to be candid with us about their lifestyle in Germantown. We encountered four women who were willing to speak with us.

“Interview with Robin, a young woman raised in Germantown”

Robin, though at first (understandably) cautious about two random people with recording devices, really opened up to us. She shared some memories of her childhood, such as being able to play on the street without worry, something that children growing up in Germantown today aren’t able to do. While she didn’t mention children of her own, Robin was holding a diaper bag which made me think that she was thinking about her own kids and while speaking about the dangers that feels are constantly present in her neighborhood.

“Interview with two anonymous women”

In a more commercial area of Germantown, we spoke to two elderly women doing some Sunday shopping outside of a Payless. The women declined to state their names for the interview, but had a lot to say about what has happened to their community. I found it interesting that although they both expressed disappointment in Germantown, they were very defensive of it. While listening to the short audio file, try and concentrate on how many times they say that the problem “is everywhere.” It’s hard to hear, but the first woman says that she has been here since 1963 and has watched the decline of a community that she loves. She says, “I like it here because I have been here all my life.” This made me think about how powerful her attachment to Germantown must be for her to live somewhere solely because of positive memories.

Finding Hope in Germantown

After Philadelphia accumulated over a foot of snow last week, I ventured into Germantown with my fellow blogger Emily to uncover images of hope. Starting only about a mile away from our community at La Salle, we trekked south on Germantown Avenue for over an hour. The images in this post show the hope that Germantown residents have for their community.
 Since I don’t live in Germantown, I took pictures of  symbols of hope that the residents have in their community and related them to experiences in my life that I have perceived as hopeful. 
Don’t worry, I asked everyone in Germantown if I could borrow their hope for this blog, and they said that’s fine; as long I return it within three business days. Haha.
All photos were taken with my Olympus Stylus Tough 6000 and optimized in Photoshop.
Finding Hope in Each Other

"Walking Together"


We found this mural painted on the side of the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement (NIM) building.  The organization aims to unify all residents of the area, regardless of race or creed. This mural includes different languages, religions, ethnicities and ages. Entitled “Walking Together,” this mural was created by two local men, Paul Downie and David Woods in dedication to community activist and NIM leader Elaine Dushoff. The sight of the bright colors against the fresh snow was striking.

In the summer of 2008 I lived in Tanzania, which is on the eastern coast of Africa, for five weeks.  I can relate that experience to the topic of hope in almost any way, but I’ll keep it broad. I had never heard of NIM before taking this picture, but it’s message is that poeple, regardless of differences, need to come together for a common purpose. In this case, that purpose is the improvement of Germantown. In Africa, I stayed in a hostel that housed people from literally all over the world.

While I was part of a La Sallian service trip that included teaching English to street children (the American equivalent would be an orphan), every other guest that was staying in the hostel was there for a different cause: clean water, nutrition, war crimes, human trafficking. I met people who represented issues that I had never even heard of. I like to remember the diversity of that hostel as  proof that humans are innately good, and will travel to help fellow humans in need.

It’s corny, I know. But I’m sure that the artists of this mural, David Woods and Paul Downie, whoever they are, would agree.   

  The picture is 1000 x 750 pixels and the resolution is 314 pixels per inch.


Finding Hope in Our Country
Germantown reaches out to provide services for our veterans

 In a relatively busy and commercial section of Germantown Avenue, a chiropracter was advertising free appointments for veterans. I saw it as a symbol of hope because the practice was putting the needs of others before their monetary gain. It also made me think of the recession America is experiencing and how it has caused money to dictate people’s lives. Those in the military, however, go to work everyday and fight not only for their salary but for the freedom that everyone in this country is entitled too. 


 While driving to school during the 2008 presidential election, I heard a talk radio show asking for people’s opinions on current issues. One listener called in and expressed some very negative views about America today. The first caller to respond was the mother of a soldier who said, “It’s okay that people chose to talk like that about America; it is their constitutional right to do so, and  my son will still risk his life so that they always have that right.” That is an amazing example that hope is alive in America; no matter who you are or what you believe in -we will protect your right to do just that.


Fast forward three years later, when I walk past this sign and post it on this blog as a symbol of hope. I don’t know if that chiropracter has any personal ties with the military or if he was just generous. Either way, I saw it as an huge gesture of appreciation for the troops, right here in Germantown.


The photo, of the advertisement that was posted on the window, is 2000 by 1500 pixels and the resolution is 314  pixels per inch.


 Finding Hope in the Future

Looking in on the Free Library on Germantown Avenue
When we got to the Free Library, it was easy to see that this is a place full of symbols of hope for the Germantown community. Although it was closed when we arrived, we wanted to try and get a good shot of some of the messages that hung on signs above the children’s section. 
Since we were literally (and figuratively) on the outside looking in, I wasn’t sure if it would be a usable shot. However, the picture shows the poster in the library with the famous Martin Luther King quote, while the light reflects the image of Germantown Avenue.
Interestingly, the street signs outside caused a reflections of a cross in the poster. The sign on the door of the library read “closed due to lack of heat.”
 There are many ways to interpret this photo, but my first reaction was that although the library can’t afford to be open today, it is there and always will be. The legacy of Dr. King is that his memory still has the ability to inspire people to hope for a better future. He fought hard for what is right and today we cannot imagine a world without Civil Rights.
 Essentially, his dream is now our reality, and if that isn’t an enduring example of hope, then I’m not sure what is.
This picture is 2000 x 1500 pixels and the resolution is 314 pixels per inch

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