African Americans have been a presence in Philadelphia since the early 1700’s at the arrival of African slaves. By 1790 the city had the largest number of free Blacks in the country and was a hotbed for abolitionist activity.
In the mid-to-late 1800’s, Blacks fleeing the atrocities of the South greatly increased the Black population, followed by numerous manufacturing jobs during World War II that brought even more of our brethren here.
Today African-Americans make up about 44% of the population, and the city and surrounding metro area offers a great deal for residents and visitors alike, evidenced by the number of historic, cultural, performing arts, culinary, music and other sites, attractions, and venues of Afrocentric interest.
The Paul Robeson Home & Historic Marker denotes where this famous human rights activist, scholar, performer and athlete resided the last 10 years of his life, before his death in 1976. At the African American Museum in Philadelphia—the first institution built by a major U.S. city to house and interpret the life and work of African Americans—is one of the oldest and finest African American museums in the country, featuring exhibits and galleries that support themes surrounding the African Diaspora, the Philadelphia Story and the Contemporary Narrative.
For theatrical adventures visit the Freedom Theatre, the oldest black theatrical institution in Pennsylvania, or take in a performance by Philadanco! The Philadelphia Dance Company, celebrated for “its innovation, creativity and preservation of predominantly African-American traditions in dance.”
The Johnson House Historic Site, owned by four generations of the Quaker and abolitionist Johnson family, was a vital stop on the Underground Railroad for Harriet Tubman and others during the 19th-century, and you can pay homage to our fallen Black service men and women on Logan Circle at the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors. This beautiful bronze and granite sculpture is a striking memorial rising over 21 feet high.
Over 40,000 items related to African-American history including books, letters, slave narratives, photographs, sheet music and original recordings can be found at the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University, while the Balch Institution for Ethnic Studies houses an extensive collection of manuscripts, documents and artifacts relating to African-American history.
The Barnes Foundation, named after Dr. Albert Barnes, is home to a significant collection of African art and it influences on other great art masters, and at The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) you’ll find an extensive collection of African art and artifacts including Benin bronzes, embroidered garments, sculptures, jewelry and more.
These are just a few of the numerous Afrocentric sites, attractions and entities found in and around the city.
We’ve got a lot more to come!
Read the Entire Feature Series!
Part 1 Escape to Philadelphia
Part 2 Lots to See and Do in Philadelphia
Part 3 Exploring The City of Brotherly Love
Part 4 The History of African Americans in Philly
Part 5 Philly: More Than Meets the Eye
Part 6 Artistic and Culinary Delights in Philly