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16 Things To Know: African-American Philadelphia
From Colonial Through Modern Days In The City Of Brotherly Love & Sisterly Affection
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 Avenue between Wyncote Avenue and Walnut Lane, both in West Oak Lane in North Philadelphia.
Exhibitions & Festivals:
- Currently displayed at Philadelphia Museum of Art, Creative Africa includes five exhibitions that embrace art and design from the African continent. Pieces range from centuries-old bronze sculptures from the kingdom of Benin to contemporary fashion, photography and architecture. Two of the five exhibits close September 25, 2016 (others stay open through December 2016 and January 2017). Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perelman Building, 2525 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
- Nari Ward: Sun Splashed offers a mid-career survey of the Jamaica-born artist, best known for his large-scale found-object assemblage work—a modern commentary on black history, the Caribbean diaspora, immigration and power. Of special pride to Philadelphians are Ward’s shoelace sculpture We the People and Homeland Sweet Homeland, a sendup of Miranda Rights—both of which he created in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, barnesfoundation.org
- Nearly half a million people attend Odunde, a blockbuster festival of African, Caribbean and African-American culture, food and fun on South Street on the second Sunday in June. Thousands also come to Delaware River Waterfront each summer for the Roots Picnic, founded by Questlove of The Roots. Ebony magazine called Philly’s BlackStar Film Festival, held each August, “the black Sundance.” And the city is also the original location of Jay Z’s Made in America, a music festival taking place each year over Labor Day weekend. odundefestival.org, rootspicnic.com, blackstarfest.org, madeinamericafest.com
A Rich History:
- Historic Philadelphia recognizes African-American life in the country’s earliest days through attractions, reenactments and signs. Pennsylvania Historical Markers honor both the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, the first American organization to work formally to end the practice of slavery, and the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, also the first of its kind in the states. Open-air site The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation reminds visitors that President George Washington practiced slavery at home, via stories of Hercules and Ona Judge, among others. The nearby Liberty Bell stood for the abolitionist movement in the 1830s and continues to represent freedom. historicphiladelphia.org; nps.gov/inde
- Mother Bethel A.M.E., founding church of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) denomination, celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. From July 3 through 13, the church hosts a bicentennial year celebration and the A.M.E. General Conference. The church building occupies the oldest parcel of U.S. land continuously owned by African-Americans and houses co-founder Richard Allen’s pulpit, tomb and museum. 419 S. 6th Street, (215) 925-0616, motherbethel.org
- North Philadelphia’s 130-year-old George W. South Church of the Advocate has long promoted social justice. During the Civil Rights era, the church hosted the National Conference of Black Power (1968) and Black Panther Conference (1970). It was also the first Episcopal Church to ordain women (1974). 1801 W. Diamond Street, (215) 978-8000, churchoftheadvocate.org
- In 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia became the first institution in 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. Collections include that of photojournalist Jack T. Franklin, documenter of the Civil Rights movement both nationally and locally. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, aampmuseum.org
- During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama chose the National Constitution Center (NCC) as the site of his “A More Perfect Union” speech on race. The oratory on race delivered a message of unity and patriotism and is widely regarded as a turning point in the presidential primary season. The NCC is currently hosting the interactive exhibit Headed to the White House, through November 8, 2016. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600, constitutioncenter.org
- Philadelphia’s rich musical legacy is African-American musical history. The city was the proud home of contralto Marian Anderson, the trailblazing opera singer who wowed at Carnegie Hall, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial from 1925-1965. Her memorabilia-packed row house sits a few blocks south of Rittenhouse Square. Nearby, South Broad Street’s Tindley Temple is widely considered the birthplace of gospel. In the 1970s, partners Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble perfected “Philadelphia soul” via gold singles and albums they produced for Philadelphia International Records. Patti LaBelle proudly calls Philly her hometown, as do Boyz II Men, Will Smith, Schoolly D, Jill Scott, The Roots, Meek Mill, Chill Moody and Jazmine Sullivan.
- Among the city’s innovation- and tech-minded black entrepreneurs are Christopher Gray, founder and CEO of the Scholly app; Project Runway winner and fashion designer Dom Streater; Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse’s Ariell R. Johnson, the first African-American woman owner of an East Coast comics store; Wil Reynolds, founder and director of digital strategy at Seer Interactive; Shelton Mercer, cofounder of Audigent and TwitChange and partner at Benjamin’s Desk, and Keith Leaphart, owner of Replica Creative.
- The city’s thriving food scene includes Top Chef Kevin Sbraga, owner of elegant Sbraga on South Broad Street and Southern eatery The Fat Ham in University City. There’s Low Country fare and live jazz at SOUTH on North Broad Street. Popular South Street spots include soul food venue Ms. Tootsie’s and Caribbean hangout Jamaican Jerk Hut. In West Philly, foodies find amazing Caribbean fare at the 48th Street Grille and great Ethiopian specialties at Abyssinia, Kaffa Crossing and Dahlak. For dessert, don't skip the pound cake at Denise’s Delicacies in Swampoodle.
- Philadelphia’s African-American art scene, whose heritage includes Henry Ossawa Tanner and Horace Pippin, thrives still. Accomplished local artists include Barkley L. Hendricks, Moe Brooker, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Brian Bazemore, Betty Leacraft, Ernel Martinez, Keir Johnston and Odili Donald Odita. Discover more black talent at Manayunk’s October Gallery, a quirky inhabited family artist compound, the Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum and Dupree Studios, both in West Philadelphia, and throughout the city via the Mural Arts Program’s more than 3,800 works, including African-American-inspired standouts Letters of Influence: Henry O. Tanner, North College and Ridge Avenues; Staircases & Mountaintops, 21st Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue; Tribute to Dox Thrash, 16th Street and Girard Avenue.
- African-American city leaders include City Council President Darrell Clarke; City Council members Kenyatta Johnson, Janine Blackwell, Curtis Jones, Jr., Cindy Bass, Blondell Reynolds Brown and Cherelle Parker; and Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Jr. The city has had three two-term African-American mayors: Wilson Goode (1984-1992), John Street (2000-2008) and Michael Nutter (2008-2016).
Destination Resources For Media:
• visitphilly.com/pressroom: Press releases about Philadelphia events and happenings, visitor stats, story ideas, high-resolution photos, vantage points and media contacts
• visitphilly.isebox.net: High-definition b-roll library organized by topic
• twitter.com/visitphillypr: Just-for-media account focused on Philadelphia tourism news
Convention Resource For Media:
• phldnc.com: For all official Democratic National Convention coverage and information
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.
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.
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...
'Tis The Season: Holiday Happenings In Philadelphia
Twinkling lights, the echo of carols and a nip in the air all bring a sprinkle of seasonal magic to Philadelphia. This year the festivities get an extra touch of sparkle with the launch of the Philly Holiday Festival, the city’s colorful, seven-week holiday gift to locals and visitors, featuring a new spectacularly lit tree and America’s Garden Capital Maze in Dilworth Park, parades, light shows and two fireworks displays along the Delaware River. Beyond the festivals, revelers can enjoy all of their regional favorites, including the dazzling Longwood Gardens Christmas display and Washington’s annual Crossing of the Delaware River...
Philadelphia Fetes Community And Culture This Fall
With the opening of a new center for Latino arts and culture (El Corazόn Cultural Center), a day of car-free city streets (Philly Free Streets) and oodles of festivals celebrating everything from fungi to films to first-person storytelling, Philadelphia coasts into autumn with a calendar chock full of fun.
More time to stay means more time to play. To maximize the season’s offerings, visitors can book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, featuring free hotel parking, at visitphilly.com.
- Urban Axes introduces the newest craze from Canada to Philadelphia with the opening of the nation’s first indoor
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.
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.
New Reasons To Visit Historic Philadelphia This Summer
Philadelphia’s historic district—now called Historic Philadelphia—simmers with summer excitement as the city’s oldest neighborhood debuts new activities and exhibitions. Visitors launch their very own presidential campaigns in Headed to the White House at the National Constitution Center, and the Independence Seaport Museum mischievously observes sailors’ lives from the 20th century through today. Along popular Penn’s Landing, outdoor hangouts Summerfest and Spruce Street Harbor Park promise more fun than ever, and Fourth of July bash Wawa Welcome America injects fresh components to a good old-fashioned block party.
A two-day Historic Philadelphia Pass makes the must-dos even easier—and more affordable. The pass,...