Camp Johnson Photographs

What’s online?

The Camp Johnson Photographs online contain selected images from c. 1939 to 1995 of camp activities and reunions for Camp James Weldon Johnson in Beaver County. Images depict campers, counselors, and staff participating in summer camp activities such as hiking, fishing, and swimming. Images of former campers and staff returning to the campsite for reunions in 1984 and 1995 are also online.

What’s in the entire collection?

The Camp Johnson Photographs contain images depicting campers or counselors usually in posed groups around the camp. Many of the photographs were taken at the river's edge with campers and counselors swimming or fishing. Images capturing the activities of the 1984 and 1995 reunions are included in this collection as well.  The Camp Johnson Records include minutes, publications, histories, photographs and other miscellaneous materials documenting both the history of the camp and subsequent reunions in 1984 and 1995. 

About Camp Johnson

Camp Johnson was the first camp for African American children in the Pittsburgh area, and at the time of its establishment, one of first in the country. Camp Johnson was named after the first African American executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), James Weldon Johnson. The camp was situated on 150 acres of Raccoon Creek State Park in southern Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Camp Johnson was open during the summers from 1939 until 1967. The initial contribution to start the camp was made by Pittsburgh Courier Editor Robert L. Vann in the amount of sixty dollars. The first director of the camp was Urban League's Recreation Secretary Edwin C. "Uncle Bill" Berry from 1939-1944. Other directors include Dr. Ruby B. "Robin" Pernell, and John M. "Bud" Holt. The camp focused on teaching African American history and providing role models for the campers. The counselors were all African American college students who sought to promote a drive for higher education amongst the campers. Among campers at Camp Johnson was Dr. Marcus Allen, who published a book of his camp memories. The camp closed in 1967 when summer camps became integrated and the need for camps specifically for African-American children waned.

In 1995, Wendell Wray organized reunion of camp alumni (former campers and employees of the camp). Mr. Wray is Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh and is an alumnus of the camp. The 1995 reunion was the second held for participants of the Camp, the first being in 1984. The 1995 reunion was held at the Marriot Hotel in Greentree (Allegheny County), Pennsylvania and at the site of the camp.

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