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African American Historical Sites in Philadelphia

African-American culture has been an integral part of the cultural foundation and maintenance of Philadelphia; historical sites in Philadelphia include parts of the Underground Railroad, a covert network once utilized by abolitionists to harbor African-American slaves and transport them to freedom. Heavily influenced by Quaker beliefs, many Philadelphians opposed slavery. To learn more about African American history in the state, visit the following historical sites in Philadelphia:

The Belmont Mansion is located in Fairmount Park. Maintained by the American Women’s Heritage Society, this mansion includes an Underground Railroad Museum. Regular tours are free for children under 6, $5 for students, seniors and children 6-18. An adult admission is $7. Like many area attractions, the Underground Railroad Museum is closed on Mondays. It is open from Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, the Johnson House was a stop on the Underground Railroad and now also functions as a museum. Tours take one hour. The museum is free for teachers accompanying students. Costs are as follows: $8 per adult, $4 per student and $6 per senior citizen. The museum is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Saturdays from 1 p.m.–4 p.m. and by appointment.

Also of note is the Declaration House. Here, Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. His original draft outlawed slavery. The Declaration House’s exhibit offers a focus on this particular aspect of Jefferson’s original intent—also mentioning his affair with a slave. Hours vary by time and season, so check the website and call ahead to confirm your visit.

The Slave Quarters are one of the more controversial historical locations in Philadelphia. Next to the Liberty Bell’s present site once existed The President’s House, where President Washington lived.  At this time, there is a representative outline with partial structure and permanent information provided for visitors.

The Slave Quarters housed three black slaves who worked in the stable as well as the coachman, a white servant. The house’s other slave slept in the house. Originally, the National Park Service’s outline of the house did not include the quarters, but public opinion influenced a decision to include them.

While historical notes indicate that Washington would refuse to split up enslaved families for profit, the former president did own hundreds of slaves over his lifetime in Virginia, Philadelphia and elsewhere throughout the colonies. The public recognition of this—just steps from the Liberty Bell—serves as a reminder of injustice and provides a visual statement of the tragic juxtaposition of slavery and freedom in American history.

Posted on January 4, 2012 by Tara M. Clapper
Philadelphia Old City historic African-American history black Underground Railroad George Washington Philadelphia Liberty Bell Declaration House Johnson House Belmont Mansion Slave Quarters things to do near Independence Hall
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