clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Photo by Melissa Romero

Black History Month in Philly: 14 important sites to visit

Historic for culture, civil rights

View as Map

Philadelphia has a long and rich history, and it’s one that African-Americans have played a significant role in shaping.

But for many, many years, important African-American sites and landmarks in the city have gone largely unnoticed.

To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve updated our map of more than a dozen sites across the city that celebrate and honor the undeniable contributions that black Americans have made to the structure of Philadelphia.

There are many, so if one of your favorites is not on the list, let us know in the comments.

Read More

Johnson House Historic Site

Copy Link

Johnson House sits right along Germantown Avenue and is Philly’s only accessible and intact stop on the Underground Railroad.

Built in 1768, It was owned by a family of Quaker abolitionists and in the late 19th century served as a safe house for slaves making their way to freedom.

Today, John House doubles as a Center for Social Advocacy.

Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

ACES Museum

Copy Link

ACES Museum was originally known as Parker Hall, a USO-style party venue for African-American veterans of World War II.

Today, it’s home to the private practice of Dr. Althea Hankins, as well as the ACES Museum, which pays tribute to the minority veterans of World War II.

The Colored Girls Museum

Copy Link

Located in a lovely Germantown twin house, the Colored Girls Museum describes itself as a memoir museum that collects and preserves artifacts—ordinary, everyday objects included!—related to the history of colored girls.

Visitors can take salon-style guided tours of the house-turned-museum, scheduled by appointment.

A post shared by Curatethis (@curatethisart) on

Belmont Mansion

Copy Link

After Belmont Mansion in Fairmount Park was built in 1745, it played host to multiple founding fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Today, it serves as an underground railroad museum, highlighting Philadelphia’s role in the 19th-century network that helped slaves escape to freedom.

A post shared by R.C. Atlee (@rcatlee) on

John Coltrane Mural

Copy Link

John Coltrane, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of his early career honing his skills in Philadelphia.

This new mural, created by Ernel Martinez, made its debut in late 2017, just a few blocks away from Coltrane’s home at 1511 N. 33rd Street.

The home is also worth a visit, although it is not open to the public and is currently waiting to be restored.

New Freedom Theatre

Copy Link

Originally home to renowned actor Edwin Forrest, the New Freedom Theatre has enjoyed a long history on North Broad serving the city’s African-American community and training actors such as Leslie Odom, Jr., who went on to star in Broadway’s Hamilton.

Also on North Broad is the Uptown Theatre, which enjoyed years as part of the “chitlin circuit,” hosting live rhythm and blues shows for and by African-Americans.

For most of last year, hit by water damage, the theater was closed down for renovations, PlanPhilly reported.

“MLK at Lancaster”

Copy Link

Martin Luther King, Jr. left his mark all throughout the Philadelphia region, but one of his most significant speeches took place here at the corner of 40th and Lancaster in West Philly.

Some 10,000 Philadelphians came out to listen to the civil rights activist, who spoke of the need for freedom now in Philly.

A mural and a bust of MLK now mark the occasion.

Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Paul Robeson House

Copy Link

Paul Robeson is best known for his deep singing voice, playing a title role in Showboat among other shows.

But when he wasn’t performing, Robeson was a vocal civil rights activist. At the end of his career, Robeson moved to this house in West Philadelphia to live with his sister.

Today, it is home to the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which still runs the Paul Robeson House and Museum.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia

Copy Link

This museum is a must-visit in Philly no matter the occasion. In fact, the AAMP is a groundbreaker in that it is considered the first institution established by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret, and house the heritage of African-Americans.

This year, for Black History Month, it has partnered with the city and LinkPHL to put up a photo exhibit around the city, remembering the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

Octavius V. Catto Memorial

Copy Link

Located on the south side of City Hall, the Octavius V. Catto Memorial is the first monument in Philadelphia dedicated to an individual African-American.

Catto, often referred to as a forgotten hero, was just 32 when he was killed on election day in 1871 while trying to rally African-American men to vote.

He was already an accomplished activist, winning the fight to desegregate Philly’s public trolleys.

Photo by Melissa Romero

President's House

Copy Link

A brick mansion originally stood at the edge of Independence Mall, serving as the home of both George Washington and John Adams.

Today, the President’s House consists of a series of structures that follow the same footprint of the original home.

The “house” highlights the fact that Washington owned slaves here, too, nine to be exact.

Photo by Joseph E.B. Elliott for NPS

Delaware River

Copy Link

Outside of Independence Seaport Museum is a historical marker that stands next to the river, signifying Pennsylvania’s role in the slave trade.

Here, Africans disembarked in Philadelphia as early as 1639 and were sold as slaves.

Official Pennsylvania Historical Marker

Posted by Cheryl Renee Gooch on Friday, August 5, 2016

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

Copy Link

This stately stone church in Society Hill is considered the mother church of the nation’s first black denomination.

Founded by Reverend Richard Allen in 1787, Mother Bethel sits on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African-Americans in the U.S.

Beneath the church is a museum that features Allen’s tomb and other artifacts.

Photo by Melissa Romero

Marian Anderson Historical Society & Museum

Copy Link

A renowned opera singer of the 20th century, Marian Anderson called this modest three-story house her home in Philadelphia.

When she wasn’t performing all around the world—she was the first black artist to perform at the Met in New York—Anderson would entertain her friends and family in her basement, which she had converted into an underground entertainment venue.

Today, her house is a historic landmark and is open daily for tours.

Johnson House Historic Site

Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

Johnson House sits right along Germantown Avenue and is Philly’s only accessible and intact stop on the Underground Railroad.

Built in 1768, It was owned by a family of Quaker abolitionists and in the late 19th century served as a safe house for slaves making their way to freedom.

Today, John House doubles as a Center for Social Advocacy.

Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

ACES Museum

ACES Museum was originally known as Parker Hall, a USO-style party venue for African-American veterans of World War II.

Today, it’s home to the private practice of Dr. Althea Hankins, as well as the ACES Museum, which pays tribute to the minority veterans of World War II.

The Colored Girls Museum

Located in a lovely Germantown twin house, the Colored Girls Museum describes itself as a memoir museum that collects and preserves artifacts—ordinary, everyday objects included!—related to the history of colored girls.

Visitors can take salon-style guided tours of the house-turned-museum, scheduled by appointment.

A post shared by Curatethis (@curatethisart) on

Belmont Mansion

After Belmont Mansion in Fairmount Park was built in 1745, it played host to multiple founding fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Today, it serves as an underground railroad museum, highlighting Philadelphia’s role in the 19th-century network that helped slaves escape to freedom.

A post shared by R.C. Atlee (@rcatlee) on

John Coltrane Mural

John Coltrane, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of his early career honing his skills in Philadelphia.

This new mural, created by Ernel Martinez, made its debut in late 2017, just a few blocks away from Coltrane’s home at 1511 N. 33rd Street.

The home is also worth a visit, although it is not open to the public and is currently waiting to be restored.

New Freedom Theatre

Originally home to renowned actor Edwin Forrest, the New Freedom Theatre has enjoyed a long history on North Broad serving the city’s African-American community and training actors such as Leslie Odom, Jr., who went on to star in Broadway’s Hamilton.

Also on North Broad is the Uptown Theatre, which enjoyed years as part of the “chitlin circuit,” hosting live rhythm and blues shows for and by African-Americans.

For most of last year, hit by water damage, the theater was closed down for renovations, PlanPhilly reported.

“MLK at Lancaster”

Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Martin Luther King, Jr. left his mark all throughout the Philadelphia region, but one of his most significant speeches took place here at the corner of 40th and Lancaster in West Philly.

Some 10,000 Philadelphians came out to listen to the civil rights activist, who spoke of the need for freedom now in Philly.

A mural and a bust of MLK now mark the occasion.

Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Paul Robeson House

Paul Robeson is best known for his deep singing voice, playing a title role in Showboat among other shows.

But when he wasn’t performing, Robeson was a vocal civil rights activist. At the end of his career, Robeson moved to this house in West Philadelphia to live with his sister.

Today, it is home to the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which still runs the Paul Robeson House and Museum.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia

This museum is a must-visit in Philly no matter the occasion. In fact, the AAMP is a groundbreaker in that it is considered the first institution established by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret, and house the heritage of African-Americans.

This year, for Black History Month, it has partnered with the city and LinkPHL to put up a photo exhibit around the city, remembering the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

Octavius V. Catto Memorial

Photo by Melissa Romero

Located on the south side of City Hall, the Octavius V. Catto Memorial is the first monument in Philadelphia dedicated to an individual African-American.

Catto, often referred to as a forgotten hero, was just 32 when he was killed on election day in 1871 while trying to rally African-American men to vote.

He was already an accomplished activist, winning the fight to desegregate Philly’s public trolleys.

Photo by Melissa Romero

President's House

Photo by Joseph E.B. Elliott for NPS

A brick mansion originally stood at the edge of Independence Mall, serving as the home of both George Washington and John Adams.

Today, the President’s House consists of a series of structures that follow the same footprint of the original home.

The “house” highlights the fact that Washington owned slaves here, too, nine to be exact.

Photo by Joseph E.B. Elliott for NPS

Delaware River

Outside of Independence Seaport Museum is a historical marker that stands next to the river, signifying Pennsylvania’s role in the slave trade.

Here, Africans disembarked in Philadelphia as early as 1639 and were sold as slaves.

Official Pennsylvania Historical Marker

Posted by Cheryl Renee Gooch on Friday, August 5, 2016

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

Photo by Melissa Romero

This stately stone church in Society Hill is considered the mother church of the nation’s first black denomination.

Founded by Reverend Richard Allen in 1787, Mother Bethel sits on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African-Americans in the U.S.

Beneath the church is a museum that features Allen’s tomb and other artifacts.

Photo by Melissa Romero

Marian Anderson Historical Society & Museum

A renowned opera singer of the 20th century, Marian Anderson called this modest three-story house her home in Philadelphia.

When she wasn’t performing all around the world—she was the first black artist to perform at the Met in New York—Anderson would entertain her friends and family in her basement, which she had converted into an underground entertainment venue.

Today, her house is a historic landmark and is open daily for tours.