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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.), the country’s first major museum devoted to black American history (African American Museum in Philadelphia) and the oldest daily newspaper serving the African-American community (The Philadelphia Tribune).

Landmarks from Philadelphia’s Historic District to Historic Germantown tell of the successes, struggles and contributions of African-Americans through the centuries. In September 2017, Philadelphia City Hall welcomed the city’s first statue representing an African-American on public property: The Octavius V. Catto Memorial depicts the bravery of a staunch civil rights advocate.

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.

Here are Philadelphia museums, landmarks, churches and other sites rich in African-American history.

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Marian Anderson Residence Musuem

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

An antique, understated façade houses the three-story home of opera singer, humanitarian and civil rights icon Marian Anderson. The museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, reveals the life and work of the contralto, the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Anderson is most remembered for her 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, but she honed her talents before the parishioners of Union Baptist Church, just across the street.
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Paul Robeson House

Historic home of local Civil Rights leader

West Philadelphia’s Paul Robeson House served as the residence for the esteemed human rights activist, scholar, attorney, actor, athlete 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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Octavius V. Catto Memorial

In a city of more than 1,500 public statues, this monument to a 19th-century civil rights crusader is Center City’s first statue of a specific African-American. Catto, South Carolinian by birth and Philadelphian by choice, led efforts to desegregate the city’s streetcars, fought for equal voting rights, worked as an intellectual and teacher. On October 10, 1872, the first Election Day African-Americans could vote in Pennsylvania, he was shot and killed on South Street. Sculptor Branly Cadet created the 12-foot-tall bronze memorial, which features Catto in a powerful stance, walking toward a granite representation of a mid-19th-century ballot box.
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African American Iconic Images Collection Trolley Tour

Mural Arts Philadelphia has this tour in its repertoire, available for private bookings. During the two-hour experience, visitors discover the African-American Philadelphians and their 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

Before the establishment of local African-American churches, this church welcomed black worshippers and licensed Richard Allen and Absalom Jones as the first African-American Methodist lay preachers. During a dispute over segregated seating, Allen and Jones led a walkout — and went on to create African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and Mother Bethel A.M.E. (see above). St. George’s continues to work on amends for previous racial injustices.
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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, this theater 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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Black History in Philly? We Got You.

Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter of GRAMMY-winning hip-hop band The Roots hosts “We Got You: Philly by Tarik,” our new travel series. In this episode, Tarik and lifestyle editor Cory Townes check out the iconic Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia’s Historic District and visit a stop on the Underground Railroad in Germantown.

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