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A Struggle for Equality: Free African Americans in Post-Revolutionary Philadelphia

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A Struggle for Equality: Free African Americans in Post-Revolutionary Philadelphia

In-Person Program

Weekend All-Day Tour

Saturday, November 11, 2023 - 7:15 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1CD026
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Christ Church Burial Ground

In the late 18th century, Philadelphia was home to nearly 2,000 free African Americans. After Pennsylvania passed America’s first gradual abolition act in 1780, the City of Brotherly Love became a city of hope for free Black people, attracting many Black migrants. Join historian Richard Bell to trace the struggles for equality African Americans faced in post-revolutionary Philadelphia.

Starting at the President’s House on Independence Mall, the former site of the 3-story brick mansion where Presidents Washington and Adams lived and worked, learn the story of Washington’s enslaved Africans and their struggle for equal rights. Travel across the Mall to Christ Church Burial Ground for a guided tour and hear of the frontline aid work performed by African Americans during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic.

After lunch at a local restaurant, step into the archives of the Library Company of Philadelphia. The librarians showcase materials on how Black leaders used newspapers and pamphlets to fight racism and demand the full rights of citizenship. Conclude the day with a visit to the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas to explore the archives there and learn about the role houses of worship played in the fight for Black equality in Philadelphia.

Bell’s area of expertise is the study of slavery, abolition, and resistance.

Know Before You Go

  • The tour departs by motorcoach from downtown Washington, DC with a designated secondary pick-up outside the city. Content delivered by the study leader on the way to the destination, after the secondary pick-up, is an integral part of the study tour experience. Meeting the group once the tour is en route is discouraged.
  • Tour participants meet at and leave by bus from the Holiday Inn Capitol, 550 C St., SW (corner of 6th and C Sts., SW), with a pickup stop at I-495 exit 27 carpool lot at about 7:40 a.m.

General Information

  • Registration for this tour will end by 2 p.m. ET on Friday, November 10, 2023.
  • Smithsonian is a mask-friendly environment. Masks are strongly recommended to be worn on buses at all times and may also be required at various indoor sites.
  • For additional tour information: