The Hill District of Pittsburgh – Part I

Updated: Jan 30

Radio Golf, like the majority of August Wilson’s plays, is set in the historic Hill District of Pennsylvania. The history of its residents, however, long predates the 20th-century settings featured in Mr. Wilson’s plays. This history begins even before the United States was the United States, during the time of what was long known as the French and Indian Wars.

Pittsburgh Hill District Vacant Lot and Mural - Via Wikimedia Commons

In 1755, during the struggle to take the strategically placed Fort Duquesne (the heart of what is now Pittsburgh, then held by the French), the British dispatched General Edward Braddock. Braddock had several Blacks among the members of his army who marched on the fort. Three years later in 1758, when General John Forbes marched again on the fort and finally took it for the British, he renamed it Fort Pitt. “With the white troops forty-two Negro frontiersmen stood . . . among the green-coated Pennsylvania soldiers, Marylanders and Virginians, kilted Highlanders and scarlet-coated Royal Americans to watch . . . when for the first time in history, a letter from General John Forbes to Sir William Pitt bore the heading; ‘Pittsburgh, 27th November 1758.’”*

*The WPA History of the Negro in Pittsburgh. Laurence A. Glasco, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004, p. 37. [One of the projects in progress from the monumental American Guide Series of the Federal Writers’ Project, unpublished until 2004.]

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