Black history and the struggle for racial justice in Pennsylvania

The struggle for racial justice for Black Pennsylvanians is interwoven into our state’s history. In earlier times, the Pennsylvania General Assembly became the first colonial legislature to abolish slavery, in 1780. But provisions in the law kept people in bondage, and the last enslaved Pennsylvanians weren’t free until 1847.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the ACLU of Pennsylvania has found itself in the middle of some of the most important battles for Black equality and equity of the times, particularly in voting rights, policing, and criminal law reform.