7 Must-Visits for African-American History & Culture in Philly

Key spots where the focus is on African-American legacies, plus a bonus site

Philadelphia’s culturally diverse communities weave a rich tapestry of experiences, none more so than its African-American residents. In this birthplace of America, African-Americans have played—and continue to play—significant roles in the making of the city and the country. This February, honor their history and contributions at these key institutions devoted solely to the African-American experience in the City of Brotherly Love.

African American Museum in Philadelphia

Founded in 1976, the first cultural institution funded and built by a major municipality holds four galleries highlighting history and contributions, including art and artifacts. Check out the Jack T. Franklin Collection, an exhaustive archive of photos documenting major events in Franklin’s lifetime. 701 Arch St., 215.574.0380

The Colored Girls Museum

Located in a grand 127-year-old Victorian residence, this museum holds owner Vashti Dubois’s collection of artwork, artifacts, and memorabilia that not only honors women but empowers them as well. 4613 Newhall St., 215.251.1653 [Editor's Note: The museum is closed until March 2019]

The Johnson House Historic Site

In addition to being picturesque, Germantown is also known as a hub of the 1800s abolitionist movement, and this National Historic Landmark may as well have been its headquarters. Built in 1768 by wealthy Quaker John Johnson, the three-story stone house became a key stop in the Underground Railroad. Prominent abolitionist William Still, author of “The Underground Railroad” (1872), attended anti-slavery meetings here and Harriet Tubman is known to have passed through. Fun fact? It’s located near Cliveden, a historic home built by Benjamin Chew, who also enslaved Richard Allen, an enslaved man who bought his freedom and went on to found Mother Bethel A.M.E. in downtown Philadelphia. 6306 Germantown Ave., 215.438.1768

The Johnson House Historic Site

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

This holy site is not just a place of worship, it’s historically important. Freed slave Richard Allen founded Mother Bethel in 1787 and built his church on the oldest parcel of land to be continuously owned by African-Americans. Today, the devout worship in the church where Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth preached, enslaved people sought refuge on their journey to freedom, and founder Allen is entombed in a museum below his beloved church. 419 S. 6th St., 215.925.0616

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

National Marian Anderson Museum

Books, rare photos, films and paintings fill the legendary singer’s home, purchased in 1924 and located across the street from the Union Baptist Church, where she sang as a child. 762 Martin St., 215.779.4219

Marian Anderson Historical Residence Museum

Paul Robeson House and Museum

This son of a former slave was a celebrated Columbia University law school grad and lawyer, a renowned actor, and entertainer, and a staunch activist who spoke out against the treatment of African-Americans in the U.S. Though he was born in New Jersey, Robeson spent his retirement living with his sister Marian Forsythe at her three-story home. Now, the house is a museum preserving Robeson’s legacy with artifacts and furnishings as they left them, including the piano where he sang famous tunes, like “Old Man River.” 4951 Walnut St., 215.747.4675

Paul Robeson House and Museum

Philadanco

Founded in 1970, this nationally renowned company shines a spotlight on African-American dance traditions. Known for powerful productions and dancers—whom The Washington Post described as moving “like arrows in flight”—Philadanco performs across Philadelphia and the country throughout the year. 9 N. Preston St., 215.387.8200

Philadanco

Bonus: Philadelphia Museum of Art

This iconic cultural site is known for its world-class art collection, which includes many examples of fine African and African-American works. But the Greek Revival building also bears the fingerprints of Julian Abele, the first African-American architect to design a major museum and the first African-American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture. Abele also designed the Free Library of Philadelphia-Parkway Central Library, just down the street. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215.763.8100

Anne Kim-Dannibale
About the author

Anne serves as the Washington, D.C.,&nb...