Direct descendant of 1st black soldier a 6th grader

VIDEO - "I was really excited cause it's my local history, and my history," 6th grader Tyler Hamler said...

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By Aditi Roy
NBC Philadelphia:

Philadelphia is known for its place in American history. Generations of students all over the country have read about the signing of the constitution or the liberty bell. But another event that is just as noteworthy happened in our area, and you probably don’t even know about it.

In today’s “the teacher says,” we cap off Black History Month by meeting a student with a special link to history, and a teacher who wants everyone to know about it.

Camp William Penn was the first training camp in our area for African-American soldiers. Lisa Marlowe’s class on Camp William Penn is a showstopper. Not just because her students are dressed as the civil-war figures they’re learning about.

Not just because the training camp she’s talking about — the first federal one for African-American soldiers — is located just steps from Elkins park upper elementary. But mostly because one of the soldiers in that camp, Ralph Payne, was an ancestor of 6th grader Tyler Hamler.

Tyler’s mother Aileen Rollins-Hamler said she’s always known about her family history, and it was important for her to share her family’s rich history with Tyler.

“I come from a family of free blacks in the north, and during that time, with all the fighting going on in the country, they were always at risk of being enslaved,” said Rollins-Hamler.

When Tyler told Ms. Marlowe, she said her teacher got excited.

“And I just couldn’t believe i had an actual student who was a descendant of camp William Penn,” Marlowe said. “These camp William Penn soldiers, they were the first to find Abraham Lincoln, they were at the surrender of lee, and that were the only black troops to carry Lincoln’s casket at his funeral. This is national history that’s not being taught in our schools.”

Today, a wobbly cobblestone path where Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass once stood is the only remnant of camp William Penn…but that doesn’t matter to these students.

“I was really excited cause it’s my local history, and my history,” Tyler said.

Rollins-Hamler said that black history is American history, and she thinks Tyler got a front-row lesson in that.

To recognize Lisa Marlowe’s efforts, the history channel named Ms. Marlowe its “Teacher of the Year” in 2006, which was the first year for the award. If you have a suggestion for the next “the teacher says,” come to NBC and search under “the teacher says.”

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