Bella Vista, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Joe Louis Photo at Engine 11

A few years ago I met Claude Schrader at a party. Always searching for someone to tell me stories I began telling him about philastories.org. I told him that I collected the stories of several men who worked at Engine 11. He stopped me and said his father worked at Engine 11. As did mine.

From 1919 to 1952 the Philadelphia Fire Department was segregated. When a black man joined the Philadelphia Fire Department he was sent to either Fire Boat 1 or Engine 11. Engine 11 was located at 1016 South Street in the 7th Ward where W.E.B. DuBois collected his data for his seminal work on the social and economic conditions of African Americans published in 1899 titled “The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study.”

In addition to our father’s having worked together, they also bought homes near one another because we grew up about a block and-a-half from each other in Carroll Park. Before that night we had never met. I gave Claude my card with my contact information on one side and the photo of Joe Louis visiting Engine 11 on the other side. Whenever I hand it to someone they ask if I’m the kid in the photo. When Claude looked at it he asked me if I knew who that kid is in the photo. I said no, do you? He said yeah, it’s me.

Joe Louis Photo at Engine 11