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Black History Month in Philly: 14 important sites to visit

Historic for culture, civil rights

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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.

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1. Johnson House Historic Site

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6306 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144
(215) 438-1768
Visit Website

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

2. ACES Museum

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5801 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144
(215) 842-3742
Visit Website

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.

3. The Colored Girls Museum

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4613 Newhall St
Philadelphia, PA 19144
(215) 251-1653
Visit Website

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.

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4. Belmont Mansion

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2000 Belmont Mansion Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131
(215) 878-8844
Visit Website

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.

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5. John Coltrane Mural

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2100-2110 N 29th St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

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.

6. New Freedom Theatre

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1346 N Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

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.

7. “MLK at Lancaster”

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4000 Lancaster Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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

8. Paul Robeson House

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4951 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19139
(215) 474-1378
Visit Website

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.

9. The African American Museum in Philadelphia

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701 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 574-0380
Visit Website

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.

10. Octavius V. Catto Memorial

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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

11. President's House

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President's House
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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

12. Delaware River

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211 S Christopher Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 413-8655
Visit Website

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

13. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

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419 S 6th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 925-0616
Visit Website

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

14. Marian Anderson Historical Society & Museum

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762 Martin St
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(215) 779-4219
Visit Website

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.

1. Johnson House Historic Site

6306 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144
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.

6306 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

2. ACES Museum

5801 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144

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.

5801 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

3. The Colored Girls Museum

4613 Newhall St, Philadelphia, PA 19144

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.

4613 Newhall St
Philadelphia, PA 19144

4. Belmont Mansion

2000 Belmont Mansion Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131

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.

2000 Belmont Mansion Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

5. John Coltrane Mural

2100-2110 N 29th St, Philadelphia, PA 19121

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.

2100-2110 N 29th St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

6. New Freedom Theatre

1346 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19121

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.

1346 N Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

7. “MLK at Lancaster”

4000 Lancaster Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104
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.

4000 Lancaster Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19104

8. Paul Robeson House

4951 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19139

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.

4951 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19139

9. The African American Museum in Philadelphia

701 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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.

701 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

10. Octavius V. Catto Memorial

Philadelphia, PA 19107
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.

11. President's House

President's House, Philadelphia, PA 19106
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.

President's House
Philadelphia, PA 19106

12. Delaware River

211 S Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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.

211 S Christopher Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19106

13. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

419 S 6th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
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.

419 S 6th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

14. Marian Anderson Historical Society & Museum

762 Martin St, Philadelphia, PA 19146

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.

762 Martin St
Philadelphia, PA 19146