Rick Kearns

The Commonwealth Monument Project, in collaboration with The GIANT Company, the Dauphin County Library System, the Pennsylvania State Library, and the Pennsylvania State Archives are pleased to announce the appointment of Rick Kearns to the position of Fellow for the Commonwealth Monument Project, where he will coordinate and facilitate the creation of a memory box dedicated to T. Morris Chester, the brilliant African American lawyer, journalist, activist, and leader from Harrisburg.

Rick Kearns talked about the work that he has done so far on the T. Morris Chester Memory Box on Thursday, October 27, 2022 at the McCormick Riverfront Library in the T. Morris Chester Welcome Center, sponsored by the PA Media Group. The GIANT Company was also recognized for its support of the development of the memory box during this Commonwealth Monument Project Live & Learn Series Program. This Animating Democracy program also featured Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Animating Democracy Co-director. View the recorded session by visiting The Library’s YouTube channel.

After starting in August of 2022, Kearns has been working with a team of researchers from the region on the task of gathering and archiving information connected to Chester and his remarkable career. The collaboration includes creating a set or research materials (referred to as the Memory Box) that provide a basic yet informative grounding and context on the contributions of Thomas Morris Chester. These materials will be the cornerstone of the expanding T. Morris Chester Research Collection located in the McCormick Riverfront Library in Harrisburg. 

Specifically, the Memory Boxes will document Chester and his associates in relation to the value of the vote from African American men losing the vote in 1838 through constitutional revision through the establishment of the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th amendments. 

It is intended that this collection of research will provide a blueprint for the understanding of the diligence and vigilance necessary to secure and advance the practice of citizenship through the franchise and the value of the vote. 

The Memory Box model was developed through a collaboration with the State Library. A memory box includes four (4) content folders. (a) Chester’s community and early life, (b) education and journeyman period, (c) service and professional career, (c) legacy and contributions.

Kearns, a freelance journalist, poet, and teacher has been writing about and giving presentations on Chester since 1987. He has written for newspapers, magazines, websites, and other publications in the US since 1986. Kearns was also named Poet Laureate of Harrisburg in 2014, making him the first Latino to hold that position after seeing his works published in over 70 literary journals and anthologies in the US, UK, Ireland, and Latin America.

Support for this project provided by

The GIANT Company