The Role of Civil Society Organizations and Activists in Politics in Bucks County

We are proud to partner with Democratic organizations and activists that share our goal of electing the best Democrats from around the world. On Wednesday, a group of 50 people from across southeastern Pennsylvania gathered outside Vanguard's offices in Newtown Square to protest the asset manager's reversal of their climate commitments. This was the biggest protest at a Vanguard office since the company renounced their major climate commitment last month. At their recent annual webinar for clients, entitled “A Look to the Future”, Vanguard's managers failed to address their failure to meet their climate commitments or even mention investment risks related to climate change.

The protesters used this opportunity to offer local communities an alternative: to “look to the future”, if Vanguard continues to lag behind in terms of climate-friendly investments. This protest was part of Vanguard S. O. S., a campaign organized by local groups last year that included 17 protests across southeastern Pennsylvania to highlight Vanguard's toxic investments and call on the asset manager to invest in a habitable future.

Other groups represented at the demonstration included Fossil Free Penn and Fridays for Future Philadelphia. In January 1863, residents of Bucks County and the Delaware Valley were unable to know the outcome of the Civil War. Although few Bucks County units fought in Gettysburg, the battle and its aftermath affected many local soldiers and their families. Friendly local Quakers collected donations and bought Jones' freedom, and “Big Ben” returned to Bucks County.

Driven by recruitment efforts, which included public meetings and appeals, and the appearance of abolitionist and black orator Frederick Douglass, dozens and perhaps hundreds of young black people from Bucks County enrolled in “regiments of color” between 1863 and 1865. Killed in combat in Antietam, Boaz's remains were brought home to be buried in Carversville Cemetery, Bucks County. The slaves who arrived and crossed Bucks County were “self-emancipating” and boldly embarked on a difficult and dangerous path to freedom. Of the members of the regiment, both from Bucks County, one was shot in the legs and the other was about to drown in the river while trying to save his flag. Other turning points followed as 1863 and 1864 unfolded, affecting Bucks County and its soldiers on the battlefield. Educator and clay potter Richard Moore's Quakertown house was a major stop on the Bucks County Underground Railroad. Although their ranks were filled with men from various places, most of the recruits came from Pennsylvania, including many from Bucks County.

After the Union's defeat in July at the First Battle of Bull Run (in which no Bucks County unit participated), it became clear that more recruits and a longer period of service were needed. Benjamin Jones escaped slavery in Maryland in the 1830s and eventually came to Bucks County, where he took refuge in a community of former slaves and free blacks on Buckingham Mountain. Closer to home, local women also responded to calls to work as volunteer nurses at the White Hall General Hospital near Bristol, Bucks County. Bucks County Mennonites had a stronger desire to avoid war and were less motivated by abolitionism. Inspired by abolitionist efforts in Philadelphia and elsewhere, the first meeting of the Bucks County Anti-Slavery Society took place in 1837. And, near Perkiomenville, in Montgomery County, just across the Bucks line, a suspected deserter and opponent shot dead an officer participating in the campaign. The role of civil society organizations and activists has been essential throughout history for social change. In Bucks County, these organizations have played an important role in politics since 1837 when they formed an anti-slavery society that helped free slaves from bondage.

During the Civil War era, these organizations organized public meetings and appeals that encouraged young black people from Bucks County to join regiments of color between 1863-1865. They also provided refuge for escaped slaves like Benjamin Jones who found safety in communities of former slaves on Buckingham Mountain. In modern times, civil society organizations have continued their fight for social justice by organizing protests against Vanguard's reversal of their climate commitments last month. These protests have been part of Vanguard S. S., a campaign organized by local groups that has highlighted Vanguard's toxic investments while calling on them to invest in a habitable future.

Civil society organizations have been instrumental throughout history for social change in Bucks County. From helping free slaves during Civil War era to organizing protests against toxic investments today, these organizations have been essential for creating positive political change.

Alfred Westall
Alfred Westall

Incurable travel maven. Hipster-friendly music guru. Subtly charming twitter lover. Amateur twitter buff. Hipster-friendly twitter guru.