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CREDIT: R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery
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A Guide to the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia

Explore historic sites that served as a refuge for African-Americans on a quest for freedom…

Philadelphia, home of the 17th-century Quaker abolitionist movement and the city where a young Harriet Tubman found freedom, played a vital role in the Underground Railroad.

For centuries, Philadelphia’s Historic District was an active port where African individuals and families were brought to be sold, separated and sent off to enslavement.

And yet, this same district was home to the nation’s largest neighborhood of free African-Americans, the Seventh Ward (between Spruce and South Streets and 6th and 23rd Streets), and the first African Methodist Episcopal Church (Mother Bethel).

Freedom was the goal for the thousands of enslaved Africans on the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses, churches and farms that offered shelter and safety, which many found in the Philadelphia region. Here, you’ll find notable Philadelphia sites and Philadelphians who bravely worked to keep the railroad running.

Read on to learn more about where you can visit historic Underground Railroad sites in Philadelphia, and view a full downloadable guide (PDF) of all of the landmarks, historical markers, libraries and archives throughout the region by clicking the button below.

Guide to Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad

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Underground Railroad Landmarks
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The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Detailed accounts about enslaved people who passed through Philadelphia

Hundreds of documents relating to the abolitionist movement are part of this repository of 600,000 printed items and more than 21 million manuscripts and graphic items at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Visitors can view Underground Railroad agent William Still’s journal that documents the experiences of enslaved people who passed through Philadelphia.
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The Library Company of Philadelphia

Thousands of documents and books about the African American experience on display

Among the Library Company of Philadelphia's holdings is the 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.
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Chester County Historical Society

Focusing a spotlight on local history and handicrafts

Artifacts and manuscripts at the Chester County Historical Society recount the region’s abolitionist history and role in the Underground Railroad. A new permanent exhibit that delves into the subject more deeply is planned for 2018.
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Kennett Underground Railroad Center

Volunteers at the Kennett Underground Railroad Center offer guided and self-guided tours of key sites. Tours depart from the Brandywine Valley Tourism Information Center.
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The National Archives at Philadelphia

Exhibition and research facility of the official records of the American democracy

Part of the National Archives Federal Records Center, this Northeast Philadelphia site has microfiche, digital and paper versions of 18th- through 20th- century texts documenting military service, Freedmen’s Bureau, courtroom transcripts and family search websites to research residents of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
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