Dr. Leslie Pinckney Hill
In 1917. Dr. Leslie Pinckney Hill, President of Cheyney State Teacher’s College (presently, Cheyney University), envisioned a community-based institution that would help address the unmet needs of citizens who were traditionally marginalized by and disenfranchised from society based on their economic status, gender, or race.
The guiding principle of Dr. Hill’s visionary idea was to foster and promote a greater understanding among and cooperation between all citizens through education. On August 2, 1918, Dr. Hill’s vision became a reality with the official adoption of the West Chester Community Center’s articles of incorporation Center. In 1934, the “Center Committee” broke ground in the heart of the Borough of West Chester. A brand new building was constructed at 501 E. Miner Street.
Charles A. Melton
Charles A. Melton was an activist and executive director of the West Chester Community Center from 1966 to 1980. He was always a leading citizen of West Chester. Mr. Melton was a teacher, coach, counselor, disciplinarian, and friend to many, many young people. He was a spokesman for the African American Community on many critical issues involving race relations during the difficult times of the 1940s through the 1970s.
Mr. Melton helped shape the black community who were shut out from any kind of social activity in the Borough of West Chester. According to the Daily Local News in 1987, “he fought long and hard to make the borough and the county a better place to live for African Americans, and he would not back down from his stance, even when threatened.” In the early 1960’s he became involved in the Civil Rights movement. He had long talks about Civil Rights with his childhood friend, Bayard Rustin. ” In the 1960’s he organized many protests against discrimination.
Charles received a distinguished Service Award from Cheyney University in 1977. The citation read: “To an upright and fearless man, who, time and time again, had the courage to stand up for all equal rights for all Americans.” He was all of that, and more!
On August 14, 2004, the West Chester Community was renamed to the Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center in a formal ceremony to honor and pay tribute to the invaluable contributions that Mr. Melton made to the community of West Chester.