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African-American Historic Sites in Philadelphia

A citywide exploration of African-American culture and history

Just as U.S. history is African-American history, Philadelphia history is African-American history.

The nation’s birthplace and first World Heritage City is home to the founding church of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination (201-year-old Mother Bethel A.M.E.) and the country’s first major museum devoted to black American history (African American Museum in Philadelphia).

Landmarks in Philadelphia’s Historic District, from the Liberty Bell to street-side Historical Markers, tell of the successes, struggles and contributions of African-Americans through the centuries. Beyond the original city, Philadelphia’s vibrant neighborhoods offer glimpses into the pasts of African-American whose impacts live on today (Marian Anderson Residence, Paul Robeson House).

These Philadelphia museums, landmarks, churches and other sites present this rich history through a host of public programs, special exhibitions and educational opportunities for visitors of all ages.

Read on for our guide to the top places in Philadelphia to explore history through the lens of African-American culture.

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Marian Anderson Historical Residence and Musuem

Preserving the legacy of one of the world’s greatest contraltos

An understated façade houses the three-story home of opera singer, humanitarian and civil rights icon Marian Anderson. The Marian Anderson Residence Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, reveals the life and work of the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
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Paul Robeson House Museum

Historic home of local Civil Rights leader

Located in West Philadelphia, the Paul Robeson House served as the residence for the esteemed human rights activist, scholar, attorney, actor, football player and singer during the last decade of his life. Tours give visitors a chance to hear songs he recorded, learn about Robeson’s politics and discover his life of accomplishments — including his family’s 18th-century roots in Philadelphia.
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African American Iconic Images Collection Trolley Tour

Mural Arts Philadelphia has an African American Iconic Images Collection Trolley Tour in its repertoire, available for private bookings. During the two-hour experience, visitors discover the people and stories depicted on the larger-than-life artworks that adorn the city’s buildings and walls.
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St. George's United Methodist Church

One of the first local churches to welcome black worshippers

Prior to the establishment of local African-American churches, St. George’s United Methodist Church welcomed black worshippers and licensed Richard Allen and Absalom Jones as the first African-American Methodist lay preachers. A dispute over segregated seating policies led to a walkout and the creation of African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. St. George’s continues to work on amends for previous racial injustices. Portraits, items of worship, manuscripts and artifacts from the church’s early years are on display in the original building, classroom and museum.
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Concord School House and Upper Burying Ground

When visitors schedule an appointment for a tour of the Concord School House and Upper Burying Ground, they can sit in the original desks used by African-American students and abolitionists in the 1850s.
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New Freedom Theatre

As one of the nation’s most honored black professional theater companies, New Freedom Theatre has staged productions from celebrated African-American playwrights such as James Baldwin, Ossie Davis, Charles Fuller, Ntozake Shange, August Wilson and Leroi Jones. Its alumni include Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men.
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Royal Theater

Built in 1919, the Royal Theater served the city’s African-American community by bringing performers such as Cab Calloway, Pearl Baily and Billie Holiday to Philadelphia. Listed in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, it also screened double features and films starring African-American actors, including Philadelphia’s Paul Robeson. Though it closed in 1970 and is currently slated to be developed into residences, its façade — painted with a vibrant mural showcasing performers Fats Waller and Bessie Smith — celebrates its heyday.
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