By Erin Sylvester ’13
Fifty-four years ago, a “mysterious fire…extensively damaged” the new home of George T. Raymond and his family in the all-white community of Rutledge, Pa., just east of Swarthmore. Raymond, a black man from Chester who served as president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for more than 25 years, was progressive in his views and actions. He played a major role in the civil rights movement. “Largely through his efforts, Chester was transformed from a totally segregated city to a city where blacks could expect fair treatment in employment, housing, and education,” wrote John McLarnon of Millersville University.
Raymond’s papers are now available online because of the work of Jan Alexander and Jill Borin, reference librarians and archivists at Widener’s Wolfgram Memorial Library. The two were recently honored for compiling and digitizing the contents of three scrapbooks that the Raymond family donated to the university in 2009, separating them into five exhibits now known as the George Raymond Papers. Raymond created two of the scrapbooks in which he recorded the events of the civil rights movement through newspaper clippings, photographs, and other materials from the 1940’s through 1960’s. Another NAACP member created the third scrapbook, which reports the events of 1963-64. Alexander and Borin received the George T. Raymond Freedom Award at the 101st Annual NAACP Chester Branch Awards Dinner on April 27, 2012.
Alexander learned in the archival process that her father, Earle Edwards, knew the Raymonds personally. He helped make the purchase of the home possible while working for Friends Suburban Housing, a non-discriminatory real estate agency in Swarthmore, and was invited to the house blessing after it was renovated. Alexander said she was “deeply honored” by the award and that the papers are a “valuable historical resource.” Borin said, “When we received these papers, I realized what a treasure trove of history they contained.”
Erin Sylvester is a senior from Brunswick, Maine, majoring in English.