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Releases: Expanded View

Jun 18 2008

Quest For Freedom Features New Summer Tours, Exhibitions Throughout Historic Philadelphia

Programs Highlight Underground Railroad And The Free Black Community in Philadelphia

This summer’s Philadelphia Quest for Freedom will feature new programs, tours and exhibitions, including Black Hands, Blue Seas at the Independence Seaport Museum and Black Founders at the Library Company of Philadelphia, exploring the story of the region’s Underground Railroad and early African American history. Now in its second year, the program allows visitors to hear a more exciting and multi-layered rendition of the United States’ early years than ever before.

“Philadelphia was a major passageway to freedom and led the world in anti-slavery activities. Quest for Freedom allows us to provide ways for the public to access this compelling story through guided tours and programs that recount the stories at sites throughout the region,” said Patricia Washington, vice president of cultural tourism, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC).

This summer’s Quest for Freedom features several exhibitions that explore the breadth of the African American experience in Philadelphia:

  • Black Founders: The Free Black Community in the Early Republic: The struggles and victories of African Americans from the American Revolution to 1830 are examined in this exhibition through rare books, pamphlets and newspaper articles from the library’s vast Afro-Americana Collection. Through October 10, 2008. Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street, www.librarycompany.org
  • Black Hands, Blue Seas: This multimedia exhibition presents the breadth of African American maritime history, with an emphasis on the Philadelphia story. Through April 12, 2009. Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard & Walnut Street, www.phillyseaport.org
  • The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present: The history, artistic expressions and practices of Afro-Mexicans are showcased in this groundbreaking exhibition, which features, among other artifacts, a collection of 18th-century and contemporary art. June 25-October 25, 2008. The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street, www.aampmuseum.org
  • Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt: This exhibition presents 65 quilts created by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. September 16-December 14, 2008. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street & the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, www.philamuseum.org
  • In Search of Missing Masters: The Lewis Tanner Moore Collection of African American Art: Showcasing more than 100 pieces from the collection of Lewis Tanner Moore, a descendant of renowned African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner, this exhibition features works from well-known figures like Selma Burke and Romare Bearden, as well as local artists such as Raymond Steth and Ellen Powell Tiberino. September 28, 2008-February 22, 2009 (tentative end date). Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Avenue, www.woodmereartmuseum.org

This summer’s special programs and tours allow visitors to walk in the footsteps of history at treasured national landmarks throughout Historic Philadelphia and the region:

  • Living History Programs: Reenactments, storytelling and theatrical productions will take place at key historic sites that piece together the city’s Quest for Freedom story:
    • June 21, 12:00 noon – The 3rd Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, the Sable Arm of the Union Army, set up camp and invite visitors to discover the stories of former slaves and freed men who transformed the course of the Civil War. Docent-led tours of the Underground Railroad Museum, as well as other family-friendly activities will also take place. This event is part of the Live and Learn Weekend, June 20-21. Belmont Mansion, 2000 Belmont Mansion Drive, www.belmontmansion.org
    • July 4, 2:00 p.m. – Harriet Tubman recounts her life as a station master on the Underground Railroad in vivid detail at the “Ringing Out Freedom and Independence in Germantown” program. Johnson House Historic Site, 6306 Germantown Avenue, www.ushistory.org/germantown
    • August 16, 11:00 a.m. – Two of the country’s greatest orators and activists, President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, debate the enlistment of black men in the Union Army as they fight for liberty. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, 419 Richard Allen Avenue (S. 6th Street at Lombard Street), www.motherbethel.org
  • Taking a Stand for Freedom Underground Railroad Tour: Danger lurked everywhere for enslaved Africans who dared to escape and for the abolitionists who helped them on their flight to freedom. Visitors follow the path of Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad in this interactive tour that includes dramatic reenactments and tours of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Belmont Mansion and the Johnson House Historic Site. Public tours on June 21 and August 16. Group tours by appointment. www.gophila.com/questforfreedom
  • Once Upon A Nation: There are 13 marked storytelling benches throughout Historic Philadelphia. The benches feature modern-day storytellers sharing the tales of history’s famous, infamous and not-so-famous folks. One story tells how abolitionist, businessman and author William Still was reunited with his brother Peter, one of the countless enslaved Africans who purchased their own freedom. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. www.historicphiladelphia.org
  • The Underground Railroad in Philadelphia Walking Tour: The National Park Service offers a guided walking tour throughout the summer. For times and dates, stop by the Independence Visitor Center located in Historic Philadelphia. 6th & Market Streets, www.nps.gov.inde
  • Christ Church & Christ Church Burial Grounds Tour: A dramatic 30-minute presentation documents the church’s close ties to slavery and Philadelphia’s early African-American community. Guided tours of the Burial Ground highlight the issue of slavery in Philadelphia during the 1700s and the views of some of the most influential people in the nation’s history, including Benjamin Franklin. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., Christ Church, 20 N. American Street; Christ Church Burial Ground, 5th & Arch Streets, www.christchurchphila.org
  • Self-Guided Tour: Visitors can learn about Philadelphia’s place in the Underground Railroad movement at their own pace with the new Philadelphia Quest for Freedom brochure and revamped Web site, found at www.gophila.com/questforfreedom. Self-guided walking tours suggest stops at sites like the President’s House, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church and the Johnson House.

Last June, GPTMC joined with more than 20 organizations to launch the Pennsylvania Quest for Freedom, a statewide initiative designed to bring the history of the Underground Railroad to the public’s attention. The program’s goal is to build awareness of Philadelphia’s rich African-American history, particularly the leaders of the city’s free black community. Activists such as Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, Robert Purvis, William Still, Lucretia Mott and James Forten pioneered some of the first independent black organizations and led the nation’s first civil rights movement. The program animates the stories of historical figures like these and invites locals and tourists alike to visit historic sites throughout the region to hear these undertold stories.

Philadelphia’s Quest for Freedom program is funded by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office’s Cultural & Heritage Tourism Program, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Endowment Fund at the Philadelphia Foundation, and the National Park Service Network to Freedom Program.

Visit www.gophila.com/questforfreedom for more information and for a list of Quest for Freedom sites.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region’s vitality. For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit www.gophila.com or call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Independence National Historical Park, at (800) 537-7676.

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