11 Places in Philly Where You Can Celebrate Black History Month
February is in full swing and among many things that take place this month, they all pale in comparison to the celebration of Black History Month. It’s a time to reflect on America’s dark past but also a time to take in and recognize the contributions, culture and deep history of African Americans. Whether you’re looking to take the family out to check out the many exhibits across town or looking for a solo outing to take it all in and reflect, there are plenty of sights and sounds to check out. Here are our picks of where to celebrate Black History Month in Philly.
In what has been documented in the history books as one of the bloodiest fighting during the American Revolutionary War, The Cliveden Carriage House is crawling with history. Visitors here will be able to experience what life was like at this plantation and in Philadelphia in general during America’s earliest years as well as little known facts and history from the slaves and free African Americans who lived here.
For over 20 years the Painted Bride has been a cornerstone for local arts and culture. So what better place to experience the beauty of the African American cultures and contribution to the world of the arts than at the Painted Bride. This month The Painted Bride is hosting the “Soul Inspiration” exhibit. Soul Inspiration is a visual art exhibition to honor six African American figures who inspired a generation of human and civil rights workers in Philadelphia, and the nation: William Still, James Forten, Richard Allen, Cecil B. Moore, Rev. Leon Sullivan and Paul L Robeson. To keep the spirit and history of these influential men alive six local visual artists will be invited to participate in this exhibition to deliver a commentary about one of these historical figure
There are several overlooked gems in Philadelphia and this is a shining example of one. A local place that was vital along the Underground Railroad this place is a must to visit. Experience 18th and 19th century history through the events and lives of people associated with Belmont Mansion in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, PA. Our house museum is dedicated to colonial history and the 19th century network of people and places known as the “underground railroad.” Built in the early eighteenth century, the Mansion is one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in the United States. The Belmont Mansion property became part of Fairmount Park in 1869, and is now an underground railroad museum open to the public for tours.
This Philadelphia landmark is actually Pennsylvania’s oldest African-American theatre. Built in 1853 by actor Edwin Forrest this monument went through a variety of changes before becoming the renowned African American art institution it is today. Some of the most famed musicians and actors have traveled through these hollowed walls including Denzel Washington, James Baldwin, and Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men. Aside from classes the Freedom Theatre also presents live shows.
Probably Philly’s best kept secret as far as museums go, The Penn Museum consistently have cool and interesting events and exhibits. This month The Penn Museum will host it’s 28th Annual Celebration of African Cultures on February 25th. Guests will have the opportunity to experience Traditional African music and contemporary African dance, storytelling, a drumming workshop, arts, crafts, an African marketplace, games, family gallery tours, films, and more!
Built in 1768 The Johnson House is the oldest existing year-round homes in Germantown. It’s living proof that the Underground Railroad passed right through Philadelphia. Samuel and Jennet Johnson promoted their anti-slavery beliefs by offering their home as a station on the Underground Railroad. They provided sanctuary, food, clothing, and transportation to untold numbers of African freedom seekers. Tradition holds that prominent abolitionists William Still and Harriet Tubman visited the Johnson House. Now you can see first hand just how significant this home was in Black History.
Step into history while visiting one of America’s first Black churches which was founded in 1794 by Richard Allen and dedicated by Bishop Francis Asbury that same year. ‘By 1795, Bethel’s congregation numbered 121 and ten years later it was up to 457. In 1799, Allen was ordained to the office of deacon, making him the first ordained Black person in the MEC. Also in 1795, the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society appealed for Richard Allen’s support to assist thirty runaway Jamaican slaves. He provided the church as a place of refuge and aided in the training and integration of the runaways into the black community. The first church continued to provide shelter for runaway slaves.
Open to the public free of charge, the Library Company houses an extensive collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, and works of art. Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company is America’s oldest cultural institution and served as the Library of Congress from the Revolutionary War to 1800. The Library Company was the largest public library in America until the Civil War. Among the multitude of books here you’ll find 13,000-piece Afro-American Collection, which includes documents and books about slavery and abolitionism, Frederick Douglass’ narratives, portraits of African-American leaders and other artifacts.
What is probably one of the least talked about museums in Philly is definitely making one of the biggest impacts in Black History Month. The Independence Seaport Museum, is running a unique exhibit that features recently uncovered artifacts from the Museum’s collection, gripping first-person accounts and interactive elements, providing visitors with opportunities for discovery and communication. Using four key moments in Philadelphia’s history representing the themes of Enslavement, Emancipation, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights, Tides of Freedom urges visitors both to bear witness to a story central to Philadelphia and American history, and to think about the meaning of “freedom” both historically and in today’s world. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage in an ongoing discussion via social media at several points in the exhibition.
Normally we try to avoid sending visitors to tourist traps but this one had to be included. This month the National Constitution Center is celebrating Black History Month in a variety of ways. You’ll get the historical lessons without the traditional museum feel with NCC’s interactive displays and awesome visual effects. This month at the National Constitution Center, experience a variety of programs in honor of African American History Month. Explore the Museum’s The Story of We the People exhibit to discover key milestones in African-American history. During daily interactive programs, visitors can learn about the lives of African-American leaders, the history behind the Emancipation Proclamation, and more.