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Chester County Press

Lincoln University honors former professor, intros new documentary

02/21/2024 01:22PM ● By Richard Gaw

The stories of two Lincoln University men converged in a presentation on Feb. 14 that explored the life of one whose idealisms have been documented and archived and one whose idealisms were cut tragically short.

Both events, held at the Wellness Center on campus, were part of the university’s series of public events celebrating Black History Month.

Moderated by Interim Library Director Tiffany Davis and long-time professor Dr. Dwight Murph, the university announced that it will soon unveil the papers of former Lincoln University professor Dr. Charles V. Hamilton, as part of a digital archive collection that will soon become available from the Langston Hughes Memorial Library’s website ( and The documents were obtained by the university in 2022.

The collection – which when fully gathered will total more than 100 manuscripts, lectures and speeches, correspondence and photos -- will be used to aid scholarly research, academic curriculum and future conferences and symposiums related to Hamilton’s work. 

Hamilton’s legacy extends far beyond his time as a professor at Lincoln during the 1960s. A political scientist, scholar and early pioneer of civil rights, he is most known as the co-author of Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, originally published in 1967, which he co-wrote with Kwame Ture, then known as Stokely Carmichael. The groundbreaking book – which has since become a staple of the Black Power and civil rights movements -- gave insight into the roots of racism in the U.S. and presented ideas on how the political process could be reformed. 

While at Lincoln, Hamilton wrote the book while he was a resident at the Amos House near the corner of Baltimore Pike and Ashmun Avenue, which is now being renovated through a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program. Once completed, the home will serve as a Heritage Center that will house memorabilia related to the history of the university.

While it is establishing the Hamilton archives, Lincoln University is also working on creating an archival collection for Lincoln University graduate and poet, social activist, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes, which Davis said could be completed in the next year. 

Harlan B. Joseph Was Here

The event also featured a presentation by two Princeton University professors who are collaborating on a project documenting the life of Harlan Joseph, a 19-year-old Lincoln University sophomore who was tragically shot and killed by a white police officer at a demonstration in Trenton, N.J. on April 9, 1968 in the aftermath of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was killed five days before.

Purcell Carson, a professor in the School of Public and International Affairs and a documentary filmmaker joined with History professor Alison Isenberg in introducing Harlan B. Joseph Was Here, an in-progress documentary that explores the turbulence that struck several U.S. cities following King’s assassination as told through Joseph’s emergence as a young leader and activist, whose life ended during his attempt to bring order and control to the chaos that was ensuing just a few blocks from his home. 

The film combines more than 80 separate interviews with extensive research and archival online editions of The Lincolnian, the university newspaper -- is part of The Trenton Project, a collaborative documentary investigation between Carson’s students in her documentary film seminar and Trenton residents, institutions and community partners. The project produces short films that provide a kaleidoscopic lens on the challenges Trenton faces, its ambitions for the future, and the many ways Trentonians are working together to weave and repair the fabric of the city. The film has also been a seven-year collaboration with Isenberg, who is currently writing Uprisings, a book that also provides insight and history about Joseph. 

Carson said that even though Princeton is separated from Trenton by a distance of only eight miles, a “great divide” exists between the Ivy League school and the often-troubled inner city, which helped inspire the start of the project.

“Facing those questions and that inequality involved throwing ourselves into the mix, and I think that is what we are trying to do with this project,” she said. “I have learned so much about trying to be humble and listen, but I also think the saving grace is that my film is collecting the voices and making these interviews – mostly of Black Americans – available to public libraries and the Princeton archives, so that other communities can hear those stories in the future. 

“Because we are working on this film about a person with whom we cannot speak, in our portrait of Harlan Joseph and by extension Lincoln University we are using a mosaic approach of working with community,” Carson added.  “We’re using their voices to bring a world of 50 years ago back to life.”

The presentation provided newspaper clippings that documented the Trenton uprising, the swath of similar uprisings around the U.S., and included several Zoom interviews Carson and Isenberg conducted with Joseph’s classmates at Lincoln that provide a specific look into Joseph’s life as well as a broad overview of the campus climate during the turbulent 1960s. His time on campus also intersected with Dr. Hamilton’s time at Lincoln University.

“For us, one of the most significant factors was that in the year that Harlan Joseph spent his first year at Lincoln was the year that [Hamilton’s] Black Power: The Politics of Liberation was written on this campus,” Isenberg said.

‘He was a Lincoln man…’

In their re-telling of Joseph’s story, Carson and Isenberg pointed out the erroneous news accounts of the Trenton event. While the protestors were marching to call attention to ineffective administration and discriminatory practices in nearby high schools, news accounts erroneously reported that their main motivation was to loot. Pointing to the first sentence of one newspaper story that was superimposed on a large screen, Isenberg read, “’The authorities say that of the persons killed in the violence, 13 were shot while they were looting or died as a result of fires,’” she said. “I can tell you that there was no evidence that [the demonstrators] were looting.”

In a memorial service held at Lincoln University on April 17, 1968, then university President Dr. Marvin Wachman said that Joseph “stood for the finest principles upon which Lincoln University rests. He was a Lincoln man and will be remembered as a Lincoln man. That his life was taken eight days ago represents a supreme irony. He stood for intergroup and interracial cooperation.”

In their research, Carson and Isenberg have gathered a perception of Joseph that they said informs both the development of the book and the film.

“Harlan was described as a warm and centered person, who didn’t stand out in very loud ways, but it helped us understand that it was his context of pain that gave him his calmness,” Isenberg said. “It wasn’t just that he was a calm person, but he was a calm person who viewed himself in the context of difficult times.”

To learn more about the in-progress documentary Harlan B. Joseph Was Here, the book Uprisings and The Trenton Project, visit

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].