Sports career

Charles Blockson gave up his sports career to become a 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.

“Negroes are born to serve white people,” said the teacher.

The gruesome response set young Blockson on a mission to chronicle and preserve whatever black history he could find.

During this time, 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 concentrated on his work as a historian and collector.

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

Charles Blockson was responsible for obtaining Philadelphia’s first historical marker commemorating black historical figures.

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

Later, he donated his items to Penn State and Temple University, both of which maintain special collections in his name.

Learn more about Charles Blockson and his journey through his Black History collections in Billy Penn.

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