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150 Years Since The 13th Amendment Passed: Historic Philadelphia's African-American Experience Is More Moving Than Ever
America’s Most Historic Square Mile Tells A Rich Story About Free Blacks, Enslaved Africans And African-Americans
Philadelphia reveals undertold chapters in the nation’s history, including the challenges, injustices, accomplishments and contributions of Africans and African-Americans during the United States’ early years. This year, the National Constitution Center commemorates the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery (the original document is on display) and the beginning of the Reconstruction Era.
Visitors to America’s “Most Historic Square Mile” can discover the more complete story of African-Americans at these moving sites:
Museums & Attractions:
- The African American Museum in Philadelphia, founded in 1976, is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage and culture of African-Americans. The museum takes a fresh and bold look at the stories of African-Americans and their role in the founding of the nation through the core exhibit Audacious Freedom. Other exhibits and programs explore the history, stories and cultures of those of African descent throughout the African diaspora. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, aampmuseum.org
- At Independence Seaport Museum, Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River uses the city’s eastern river to uncover the African experience in Philadelphia, along the themes of enslavement, emancipation, Jim Crow and Civil Rights. The 300-year story unfolds through recently uncovered artifacts from the museum’s own collection and compelling first-person accounts. Penn’s Landing, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org
- The Liberty Bell Center examines the connection between the Liberty Bell and African-American history. Exhibitions, videos and interactive displays explain how the abolitionist movement adopted the icon of freedom based on the inscribed quote from Leviticus—“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”—as a symbol of its anti-slavery activities. Beginning in the late 1800s, the Liberty Bell traveled around the country to expositions to help heal the divisions of the Civil War. It reminded Americans of earlier days when they worked together for independence. 5th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
- Founded by Bishop Richard Allen in 1794, Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church sits on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African-Americans and is the “Mother” church of the nation’s first black denomination. The museum houses artifacts dating back to the original building and traces the history and international growth of the AME church. Bishop Allen’s tomb is also in the museum, and free tours are available almost daily. 419 S. 6th Street, (215) 925-0616, motherbethel.org
- The National Constitution Center houses an extremely rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The document that set a precedent for the abolition of slavery is permanently on display in the Civil War exhibition, which examines the turning-point year of 1863. Through hands-on activities, the museum also showcases the contributions of historically significant African-Americans; delves into pivotal Supreme Court cases, such as Dred Scott v. Sanford and Brown v. Board of Education; and explores the passage of constitutional amendments that established rights for all citizens. A more modern highlight: the original, signed copy of Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech, which he delivered in 2008 at the National Constitution Center. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6700, constitutioncenter.org
- The National Liberty Museum examines the enduring story of liberty, both in history and the present. The Heroes From Around the World gallery spotlights notable people from all walks of life and time periods who protected and advanced freedom—including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson. Heroes of Liberty features teachers, students, police officers, firefighters and other ordinary citizens who use their voices and talents to advocate for positive change, as well as a special section around students’ ideas about freedom after watching the film Selma. 321 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-2800, libertymuseum.org
- At The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation, visitors see structural fragments of the home where Presidents Washington and Adams lived during their terms and where the first president kept nine enslaved Africans. The open-air Independence National Historical Park site, located just steps from the Liberty Bell Center, invites people to learn about the events that transpired through illustrated glass panels and video re-enactments. Visitors then can partake in silent reflection. 6th & Market Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
All Over Historic Philadelphia:
- Throughout Historic Philadelphia—and the entire city and state, in fact—Historical Markers capture the stories of people, places and events that shaped our country. The blue signs act as mini-history lessons about notables, including: Free African Society (6th & Lombard Streets), an organization that fostered identity, leadership and unity among black people; James Forten (336 Lombard Street), a wealthy sailmaker who employed multi-racial craftsmen and championed reform causes; Joseph and Amy Cassey (4th Street between Chestnut & Market Streets), a prominent African-American couple that founded intellectual and benevolent societies for black people; Pennsylvania Abolition Society (Front Street between Walnut & Chestnut Streets), the first American abolition society; Pennsylvania Hall (6th Street between Race & Arch Streets), a meeting place for abolitionists that was burned to the ground three days after it first opened; Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (5th & Arch Streets), organized by Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott; and W. E. B. Du Bois (6th & Rodman Streets), an activist, author and co-founder of the NAACP. pahistoricalmarkers.com
- People of all ages can perch on Once Upon A Nation’s Storytelling Benches at 10 locations around Historic Philadelphia. Professional storytellers regale their audiences with tales of the well-known and not-so-well-known people who shaped America’s history, including Henry “Box” Brown, who packed himself in a wooden box and shipped himself north to escape slavery. After a grueling 37-hour journey, he emerged as a free man in Philadelphia. Benches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.
On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.
- Donna Schorr, (215) 599-0782
16 Things To Know: African-American Philadelphia
Strength In Numbers:
- The 2010 U.S. Census reported 661,839—that’s 43.37%—of Philadelphians are African-American, the city’s second largest ethnic demographic. More recent estimates show this population has increased by approximately 1% in the past six years.
- The largest concentration—82%—of African-American Philadelphians live in North Philadelphia west of Germantown Avenue, Point Breeze in South Philadelphia, West Philadelphia and in parts of Southwest Philadelphia.
- Important African-American business corridors include 52nd Street between Walnut and
Arch Streets and Baltimore Avenue between 40th and 52nd Streets, both in West Philadelphia; and Stenton Avenue between Broad Street and Walnut Lane and Ogontz
Fact Sheet: 31 Top Philadelphia Region Attractions
* Note: Most attractions were listed in the Philadelphia Business Journal Book of Lists 2015. Those that were not are marked with an asterisk.
Historical Sites & Attractions:
- The African American Museum in Philadelphia*, founded in 1976, is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage and culture of African-Americans. The museum takes a fresh and bold look at the stories of African-Americans and their role in the founding of the nation through the core exhibit Audacious Freedom. Other exhibits and programs explore the history, stories and cultures of those of African
Fact Sheet: Historic Philadelphia Trail
The birthplace of the nation is rich in history—and plenty of it. Philadelphia's Historic District Trail guides visitors to 24 essential sites in the area, which spans from the Delaware River to 7th Street and from Vine to Lombard Streets. This is the original city. It boasts serious historical cred, but it’s also home to buzzed-about restaurants and beer gardens, owner-operated boutiques and pushing-the boundaries art galleries.
Here is the 24-stop essential guide, available at visitphilly.com/historic:
- Visitors can head to the Independence Visitor Center to pick up their timed tickets to Independence Hall and get expert Philly tips.
Historic Philadelphia Timeline, 1681 To 1801
- King Charles II grants William Penn the Charter of Pennsylvania, which includes an immense tract of land as settlement of a debt owed to Penn’s father, Admiral William Penn. The King names the colony Pennsylvania in honor of Admiral Penn. William Penn begins plans for his “holy experiment” and hopes it will be the “seed of a nation.” His Commonwealth will assure religious tolerance, fair trials, freedom of speech and enlightened laws.
- William Penn leaves England, sets sail across the Atlantic and arrives in Philadelphia, his “City of Brotherly Love.” Find more information at the Philadelphia History Museum,
Aspiring Citizens Get Study Help With New Americans Trail
Prepping for the U.S. citizenship test is no small task, but Philadelphia’s self-guided New Americans Tour makes learning easier—and a whole lot more fun. The city contains approximately half the answers to the 100-question citizenship test study. This means aspiring citizens and others students of U.S. history can glean the knowledge they seek simply by paying visits to Philly’s historic sites and attractions. Best place to start: the Historic District, the original city—and a very pedestrian-friendly one at that. The trail is available at visitphilly.com/newamericans.
Here’s a look at the 16 tour spots:
- Betsy Ross House,
The African-American Story From Its Beginnings In Philadelphia's Historic District
Philadelphia’s Historic District, the site of the original city and often called America’s most historic square mile, reveals early chapters in the nation’s history, including the challenges, injustices, accomplishments and contributions of Africans and African-Americans.
This year, the Historic District’s African American Museum in Philadelphia celebrates its 40th anniversary. The groundbreaking institution hosts two temporary exhibitions through April 2, 2017. Shawn Theodore’s Church of Broken Pieces explores the translocation of black America through photography. Dawoud Bey’s Harlem, USA resurrects the photographer’s iconic 1979 portraits of residents of one of the country’s most diverse neighborhoods. The district is also home...
New Museum Of The American Revolution To Open In Philadelphia, The Headquarters Of The Revolution
Long before the first musket shot was fired in Lexington in 1775, the seeds of the American Revolution were taking root in Philadelphia as colonists declared their independence and began preparing for war. With the April 19, 2017 opening of the Museum of the American Revolution, visitors will discover the complex and sometimes painful path to independence—a story that’s told both within the museum’s walls and at sites and attractions scattered throughout Philadelphia, the headquarters of the Revolution, and its surrounding countryside.
For visitors eager to delve into this tumultuous time in history, the Museum of the American Revolution—located in
Alexander Hamilton's Legacy Remains Strong In Philadelphia's Historic District
Freedom fighter, statesman, financial genius, adulterer. Fans of the blockbuster hit Hamilton know some of the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life, but there is plenty more to discover in Philadelphia’s Historic District. The new Museum of the American Revolution, opening on April 19, 2017, will offer a glimpse into the Hamilton-Washington bro-mance. A tale debuting this summer from the Once Upon A Nation storytellers will get to the root of the fatal Hamilton-Burr duel. And in Independence Hall, National Park Service rangers often regale visitors with accounts of heated debates Hamilton engaged in about the U.S. Constitution.
Here are more...
A First-Timer's Guide To Philadelphia
While Philadelphia offers a variety of authentic and top-notch attractions, exploring this vibrant city takes some planning—especially for first-time visitors. With so much to see, do and taste, it’s challenging for a novice to know where to begin in the country’s first World Heritage City. From the historic Liberty Bell to the deliciously indulgent cheesesteak, here’s a look at Philly 101:
- Independence Hall – While historical attractions abound in Philly, Independence Hall has particular significance to the development of the nation. In this building in 1776, the Founding Fathers came together to sign the Declaration of Independence.