After Being Disrespected by His Teacher, Norristown Native Passed on Pro Sports Career to Become Historian

WPSU charles blockson black historian
Image via WPSU.
Charles Blockson.

As a child, Norristown native Charles Blockson was told by a teacher that his heritage had no history worth learning, writes Avi Wolfman-Arent for Billy Penn.

“Negros were born to serve white people,” the teacher said.

The horrific comment put young Blockson on a mission to chronicle and preserve anything related to Black history that he could find.

Meanwhile, he was also a star athlete at Norristown High School and he later played fullback for Penn State. However, he turned down an offer to play professionally and instead he focused on his work as a historian and collector.

His collections included books from the 1500s, some of Harriet Tubman’s personal belongings, and a signed copy of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry.

Charles Blockson was responsible for Philadelphia getting its first historical marker commemorating Black historical figures.

He also published his historical works, such as books on black genealogy, the Underground Railroad, and his autobiography.

He later gave his items to Penn State and Temple University, both of which maintain special collections in his name.

Read more about Charles Blockson and his journey to his Black history collections in Billy Penn.


This MONTCO Today post was originally published Feb. 12, 2022; it has been reviewed for currency and accuracy.

Watch this video with Mr. Blockson on his history and collections by WPSU and PBS.

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