Pastor of Bellefonte’s St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Dr. Donna King, died on Jan. 7. King was known for her work in preserving local black history.
Often known as “Mama King,” King was a pastor, historian and lecturer in African American Studies at Penn State. She was well known for researching and teaching about the abolitionist movement in Bellefonte and Centre County. She regularly gave walking tours of Bellefonte stops on the Underground Railroad with a lantern while singing “Oh Freedom.”
“You've got to keep your mind straight on freedom, you have to have that abolitionist mindset. You've got to come together and listen to each other's stories and find out what the local history is, wherever you are,” King described her guiding principles when she spoke to WPSU in the summer of 2020.
Dr. Cynthia Merriwether-deVries shared a 40-year friendship with King. Merriwether-deVries said King took on local institutions including municipalities and schools to promote equity, and that she left a direct impact on the community.
“Many of the programs that we now have and, in fact, some of the personnel that we have focused on diversity came about because of her advocacy,” Merriwether-de Vries said.
King died at the age of 64 from cancer.