Between Terminals E-F
This exhibition celebrates Philadelphia’s African American
history makers of the 20th century and includes 100 selected
individuals from various decades who have dedicated their lives to a variety of
disciplines including the arts, athletics, civil rights, politics, religion,
Africans and African Americans have been part of
Philadelphia’s history since its earliest days. When Europeans claimed
settlement in the 1630s, enslaved people of African descent came to serve them.
Decades later, in 1681, William Penn arrived to govern Pennsylvania and founded
Philadelphia on the principles of equality, peace, and tolerance. In 1701, Penn
wrote The Charter of Privileges, signed in Philadelphia, which granted citizens
of Pennsylvania certain rights. Yet, many in this new land practiced slavery
and there were no rights or privileges for Africans and African Americans.
In the late 18th century, two of the three Charters of Freedom
– The Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1787) – were also
written and signed in Philadelphia. As the Declaration of Independence stated,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal…” At this time in American history not all men or women were equal as the United
States was the largest slaveholding country in the world. The moral issue of
slavery deeply divided the country and was eventually resolved at the end of
America’s Civil War (1861-1865) – a battle between free and slave states.
the 17th and 18th centuries, Philadelphia was home to
many civil-minded residents who were abolitionists and suffragettes. The city
was considered a “center for abolitionism.” Historian James Wolfinger wrote, “African Americans came because of the black
community’s reputation as a vibrant political, cultural, and economic center,
and Philadelphia, true to its antislavery reputation, became a major stop on
the Underground Railroad...”
Historically, Philadelphia has maintained one of the
country’s largest African American populations even though the city has
experienced eras of racial discrimination and racial violence. This exhibition
honors the legacies of selected Philadelphia-area African Americans of the 20th
century as well as a selection of abolitionists and leaders who came before them.