Thank you, Mr. Gilyard

Frank Gilyard

“We’ve gone from the slave ship to the spaceship.”

The city of Reading is poorer for the sudden death of Frank Gilyard yesterday.

Mr. Gilyard  was one of Berks County’s most important historians. He was the founding president of the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum (CPAAM), a remarkable gem inside an AME church on Tenth Street, a building with a false floor downstairs that used to be a station on the Underground Railroad.

Mr. Gilyard scrupulously collected and archived historical materials that would’ve been lost to time. He curated exhibits. He led and participated in important projects like the book Woven With Words: A Collection of African American History in Berks County.

Frank Gilyard with Negro Leagues paintings

Frank Gilyard Sr., 1930-2013

He visited our library many times; he collaborated with us on some Negro Leagues baseball projects, and once he gave a talk here. You couldn’t speak with this gentle, kind, yet strong man without recognizing that he had lived–here in Berks–the kind of history that CPAAM presents. His stories of families cruelly tested by destructive injustice, honest people abused by police and co-workers, vicious violence heaped without reason on blacks–those vivid stories ran deep in Mr. Gilyard. Somehow, though, he exuded optimism. Pure positive vibrations.

Here’s more about him in today’s Reading Eagle.

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