Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Black Heritage vs. Gas Rights

A family farm settled by free African Americans who were among the first arrivals in northeast Pennsylvania in 1793.

Black Heritage vs. Gas Rights

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Working on a story with Inquirer writer Andy Maykuth, I spent time this week with Denise Dennis who is deciding whether to allow access to her family's farm and the natural gas reserves of the Marcellus Shale below. That decision is complicated by her family's history.  Her ancestors were free African Americans who were among the first farmers to settle in northeast Pennsylvania in 1793.

I found her family history extraordinary and facinating. "Not all blacks were slaves from the South," Denise told Andy. "This place is a reminder that we also owned property in the United States - we had a stake in this country."


The 153-acre farm in Susquehanna County has remained in the family for seven generations. There are more photos here, and you can read Andy's Sunday newspaper story here.

Inquirer Staff Photographer
About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at tgralish@phillynews.com.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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