Our History

JOSEPH E. HILL (1855-1892)

Joseph E. Hill was born in Philadelphia in the summer of 1855. He began his earliest education with Miss Ada H. Hinton on Locust Street above Sixth Street and later attended the James Forten School. He graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in June of 1873.

Most of his adult life was spent as an instructor in the Institute, which, in later years, became Cheyney State Teachers’ College. He also attended Bryant and Stratton’s College of Commerce and the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Arts where he excelled with honors. He was most noted by his contemporaries as being an outstanding teacher and a tireless worker, devoting his time to schoolwork even during his vacations. He had a genius for organizing and possessed an enthusiasm so necessary to success.

For several years he served as librarian of the Central Presbyterian Church Sunday School. In 1881, he and seven others organized the Amphion Society- a colored male choral association that achieved much prominence at the time. He lived in a high moral plane always and set the best example to the hundreds of scholars who came under his care during his lifetime. He died of pneumonia on January 18, 1892.


Samson Freedman was a teacher who dedicated his life to improving relations between people. He was the force behind establishing the District Six Human Relations Teachers Group. One of the first projects was to place a plant, something growing, in every classroom in the District. His idea to establish the School of Humanities as a pilot summer school program was a great success and it progressed to the beginning of the School of Humanities, which is now an example for alternative education.

He worked with the NAACP Northwest Branch, to help alleviate problems during the 1960s. He was a prime mover in the acceptance of the P.F.T. to help teachers gain more recognition. He was a President of the Greater West Oak Lane Coordinating Council, an umbrella group of all the neighborhood civil groups. After his term was completed, he started a northwest neighbors group to help stabilize a changing neighborhood population shift. He was a leader in his synagogue and lived his beliefs.

Mr. Freedman wanted the kids to have the best. He worked with them and for them, in not only teaching, but in the broader educational term: educate them for behavior, for life.

MORRIS E. LEEDS (1869-1952)

Morris E. Leeds was an electrical engineer known for inventions in the fields of electrical measuring devices and controls. He was a graduate of Haverford College and the University of Berlin, and he founded Leeds & Northrup Co, a Philadelphia electrical instrument manufacturer.  He was inducted into the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Academy of Political and Social Sciences.