The African American Story
The African American Museum in Philadelphia
Opening in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit African American culture. The core exhibition, Audacious Freedom, tells the bold stories of African Americans and their roles in the birth of the nation. In addition to Revolutionary American History, the museum also has galleries filled with fascinating African American art and culture.
Museum of the American Revolution (MoAR)
The Museum of the American Revolution explores the Revolutionary War through the personal accounts of those everyday citizens. The Museum uncovers free and enslaved African American narratives such as William Lee, General George Washington's enslaved valet whom he lived alongside with throughout the war. Interactive exhibitions engage families through children's accounts of the Revolution such as James Forten who at 14 years old volunteered for the Patriots. Guests can also view a rare signed 1773 volume of Poems on Various Subjects by Phillis Wheatley, America’s first published black female poet.
Independence Seaport Museum
The Independence Seaport Museum recounts 300 years of African American history in its permanent exhibition Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River. Highlighting four historical Philadelphia events, the museum explores themes such as enslavement, emancipation, Jim Crow and Civil Rights. Through newly uncovered artifacts, visitors can explore stories that are important to both Philadelphia and the United States.
National Constitution Center
The National Constitutional Center is dedicated to preserving the freedoms deemed by the United States Constitution. In hands-on activities, visitors can learn about notable historical and modern African American contributions and crucial Supreme Court cases, such as Dred Scott v. Sanford and Brown v. Board of Education. The National Constitutional Center also holds a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln and a signed copy President Barack Obama’s 2008 “A More Perfect Union” speech.
The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation
Located within walking distance from the Liberty Bell Center is the site of the Presidential home of George Washington and John Adams. This open-air glass structure marks the contractions of freedom in the newly formed United States. While President Washington fought for “We the People,” his house is also the site where he enslaved nine African Americans. “Walk in Oney’s Footsteps” is a program that allows visitors to follow a trail representing Martha Washington’s enslaved maid, Oney Judge, fight to freedom. The Presidents House calls for thought-provoking dialog and silent reflection.
Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church
In 1794, Bishop Richard Allen founded the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church making it the oldest land continuously owned by African Americans. This church is also the mother church of the nation’s first black denomination and is still in use today. This is not only church, but also a museum and archive. Visitors will be awed at their collection of huge stained-glass windows and religious artifacts dating back to 1600s. Reservations required for the daily museum tour.
Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches
Located conveniently throughout Philadelphia’s Historic District are 13 benches with professional story tellers ready to engage people of all ages with tales of well known and not so well-known American History. Stories include icons like Fredrick Douglass or hidden histories such as Yarrow Mamout and Oney Judge. Benches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Maps of the bench locations are available at the Independence Visitor Center.
Around Philadelphia – and the entire state – are blue signs detailing the stories of people, places and events that helped shaped the country. Like a scavenger hunt, people of all ages can find these mini-history lessons while strolling between famous American landmarks. Below are the blue markers showcasing the richness of African American history in Philadelphia.
Free African Society (6th & Lombard Streets), an organization that fostered identity, leadership and unity among Africans and African Americans.
James Forten (336 Lombard Street), a wealthy sailmaker who employed multi-racial craftsmen and championed reform causes.
London Coffee House (Front & Market Streets), a 1754 shop where carriages, food, horses—and enslaved African-Americans—were bought and sold over coffee.
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.
W. E. B. Du Bois House (6th & Rodman Streets), located in the heart of a neighborhood once known as the Seventh Ward is home to Philadelphia’s largest and oldest African-American community. The NAACP co-founder lived here while collecting data for his seminal 1899 study, The Philadelphia Negro.