African Americans in Allegheny City

Allegheny City, now known as Pittsburgh’s North Side, was a bustling hub of industry and commerce during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, African Americans migrated from the South to escape the oppressive racial conditions and find work in the booming industries of Pittsburgh. African Americans played a vital role in the growth and development of Allegheny City, contributing to its economic and cultural vibrancy.

The earliest records of African Americans in Allegheny City date back to the late 1700s. During this time, many enslaved Africans were brought to the area by French and English colonizers. In the 1800s, African Americans made up a small but growing minority in Allegheny City, working primarily in the city’s industrial factories and as domestic servants. By the early 1900s, the African American population in Allegheny City had grown significantly, with more than 8,000 residents living in the city by 1910.

Despite their contributions to the city’s growth and prosperity, African Americans in Allegheny City faced significant discrimination and segregation. Segregation laws were enforced in housing, education, and public spaces, with African Americans being relegated to living in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Discrimination in employment and wages also limited the economic opportunities available to African Americans in Allegheny City.

Racially restrictive covenants, which were legal contracts that prohibited the sale or rental of property to non-white individuals, were common in Allegheny City during this period. This made it difficult for African Americans to find suitable housing, and they were often relegated to living in overcrowded and dilapidated neighborhoods.

Despite these challenges, African Americans in Allegheny City built a strong sense of community and solidarity. They established churches, social clubs, and community organizations that provided a sense of belonging and support. African American activists also fought for their rights and challenged racial discrimination through protests and legal action.

  • William Wells Brown, an escaped slave who became a prolific writer and lecturer, lived and worked in Allegheny City in the 1850s.

The history of African Americans in Allegheny City is a complex and rich story of resilience, perseverance, and resistance in the face of discrimination and segregation. Despite the challenges they faced, African Americans played a critical role in the growth and development of Allegheny City and contributed to its economic, cultural, and social vibrancy. By learning about the experiences and contributions of African Americans in Allegheny City, we can better understand the broader history of race and racism in America.


For further reading on the history of African Americans in Allegheny City, the following resources are highly recommended:

  • “African American Urban Experience: Perspectives from the Colonial Period to the Present” edited by Joe William Trotter Jr.
  • “The Negro in Pittsburgh: A Study of Race Relations and a Negro Community” by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • “The African American Experience in Pennsylvania” by Joe William Trotter Jr. and Eric Ledell Smith
  • “African Americans in Pittsburgh” by John M. Brewer Jr.


Du Bois, W. E. B. The Negro in Pittsburgh: A

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