Sunday, May 20, 2012

First Day in Philadelphia

This morning we left the beautiful city of Cincinnati, Ohio and continued our journey to “the City of Brotherly Love”, Pennsylvania, PA. Pennsylvania.

Facts on Pennsylvania:
William Penn
  • William Penn founded Pennsylvania on March 4, 1681 with the goal of creating a colony that allowed for freedom of religion due to his desire to protect himself and the Quakers from persecution while in Great Britain. 
  • Those who lived on this colony were granted the freedom of worship and religion because the Quakers did not believe on imposing their faith on other people. 
  • Philadelphia is the first city built on a grid system in 1682 when William Penn planned the system of organized streets to help facilitate future growth. The present city of Philadelphia still runs on a grid system. 
  • Penn decided to name the east-west streets after trees. Since then, the names of all but 4 streets remain the same. 
  • The state was founded along the Delaware River near the site of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. This bridge was opening in 1926 and was the world’s longest suspension bridge span until the Ambassador Bridge was built. This bridge connects Pennsylvania with Camden, New Jersey. 
  • Philadelphia is home to the: 
    • Philadelphia Phillies who play at Citizens Bank Park, 
    • Philadelphia Eagles who play at the Lincoln Financial Field, and the 
    • Philadelphia Flyers who play at the Wells Fargo Center.
  • The Delaware River today holds the remains of dead Navy ships and the merchant’s exchange where the first insider trading markets were held. 
Our docent, Joe

After we checked into our hotel in Philadelphia, we began our day with a tour into the heart of Philadelphia with out guide, Andy. We then met with our docent, Joe, who was retired from the Parks and Recreation in Philadelphia. Through our tour with Joe, we visited residence sites of:

James Forten
  • Thomas Harrison, who was part of the Anti-Slavery society 
  • Anthony Bennison, who taught slaves to read, write, and count 
  • Richard Allen, who was a minister and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • James Forten, who was a wealthy businessman and abolitionist 
  • Dr. Benjamin Rush, who signed the Declaration of Independence and attended the Continental Congress, and 
  • The Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society. 

Although these residences or sites do not actually exist today, their legacy remains with the city and many are remembered by placards that tell the story of many important men of the Underground Railroad movement.  This walk into history allowed us to step back and look at where historical events took place in our history.  Listening to Joe speak about the abolitionist movement allowed us look at Philadelphia in the actual setting where these events took place.

African American Museum
After visiting the site of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, we moved onto the African American Museum in Philadelphia, where we mainly concentrated on the exhibit on Audacious Freedom. Here we were able to experience simulated re-enactments of different abolitionists like Octavius Catto, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Robert Purvis, James Forten, and many more.  Because we have been so invested in learning about these amazing men and women, it was definitely a sight to see the re-enactment and actually see and hear the figures that we have made up in our heads.

Our journey continued to Mother Bethel AME Church where we were greeted by the Pastor who gave insight on the church, then we were lead to the basement museum which held the tomb of Richard Allen and other collectables of the church.  Here we learned more about the history of Mother Bethel and how the site was a significant place not only for worship, but it was a site that aided those involved in the Underground Railroad.

Quick Facts on Mother Bethel
  • Mother Bethel AME was founded by Richard Allen, who earned his way to buy his freedom from slavery. 
  • Allen was friends with Absalom Jones and they along with other free Blacks founded the Free African Society on April 12, 1787, this society then lead to the creation of Mother Bethel
  • Mother Bethel is now on it’s fourth church on the same site. 
  • Richard Allen
    • The First Church was opened on July 29, 1794 and was site of shelter for many runaway slaves. 
    • The Second Church was built in 1805 because there was a high need for a larger building to accommodate the growing congregation. 
    • The Third Church was built 10 years after Allen’s passing and was made of bricks and stone. This church was completed in 1841 and housed the growing community. 
    • The Fourth Church, which is the current church standing today, was dedicated on October 26, 1890. 

Our day concluded with a drive through the Seventh Ward, which was the site of a large population of Blacks and one of the settings in the book, The Rains.  We were able to visit the placards that described the men of William Still and Octavius Catto.  Throughout the course, we have learned about Still, Catto, Allen, and many more, but being in the city where this history took place made such a connection and impact to my personal learning journey.

Throughout the day, we continued to reiterate the theme of the struggle for equality.  Whether it be the Black slaves fighting for their freedom, to the Quakers who supported the abolitionist movement, to those involved in the AME church of Mother Bethel, they all strived to achieve one goal to view themselves and the people of their community as equals regardless or religion or the color of your skin.  At many of the sites we visited, we continued to look at the issues that many of these abolitionists had to face in order to either free themselves or free those who were bound to enslavement.  This struggle towards equality was a difficult road traveled and still continues on in our society today in many different aspects.

“To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of preservating friendly relations with the southern white man who is their next door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down, making friends in every manly way of the people of all races, by whom you are surrounded… To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted, I would repeat what I have said to my own race: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your fireside...” -Booker T. Washington, Atlanta Compromise Speech


  1. Continuing our journey from Cincinnati to Philadelphia and learning and experiencing the rich history of Philadelphia opened a new aspect of blaming the victim to me; the moment the victim reaches their boiling point of constantly being condemned by others that they use that extrinsic motivation to fight for intrinsic beliefs, desires, and human liberties. Joe shared with us the history of Philadelphia, the historical landmarks where abolitionists and African Americans fought for the liberties of the enslaved and equality of all, the locations where people of all ethnic backgrounds fought for the liberties and rights of those not viewed as equals. These individuals, leaders in their very own distinct and individual ways, shed some light on the fight for educational equality and all aspects of equality. These are the moments that make us step back and realize that though there are many aspects that are hindering the fight for educational equality there are still many aspects that are fighting for equality and the movement forward. Alvord, in 1866, reported that "in the absence of other teaching they are determined to be self-taught; and everywhere some elementary text-book, or the fragment of one, may be seen in the hands of negroes." (Anderson, 1988) The Victims are destined to make the lives of their children better than their lives, to fight for the education they were not allowed, to fight for the opportunities that were withheld from them. Through this we see how powerful intrinsic motivation is and a small simple glimpse into the victim prevailing and starting to overcome the obstacles of the constantly being condemned. Seeing the history of Philadelphia makes us face the reality that if we do not continue to fight for this notion of educational equality then we are disrespecting the history and the individuals that fought for this liberty, especially those that lost their lives.

    *Anderson, J. (1988). The Education of Blacks in the South

  2. The day spent touring Philadelphia was a great way to tie all that we have been learning about together. Just as The Rains pulled me in emotionally, seeing all the sites made all the historical information real and applicable. We physically see where we have been, how far we have come, how far we haven’t come, and gain a desire to continue making and changing history.

    Though I enjoyed seeing everything and gaining more historical information, I think
    what struck me the most about this day was our tour guide, Andy. We were learning about the history of our country from someone who is from another country. It is crazy to think that he knows more about our nation’s history. Andy, though from the other side of the pond, was knowledgeable and it was evident that he takes pride in sharing what he knows with others. In addition, he is someone who is seeking the facts. He understands that written history can be on sided and biased. There is so much truth left out and there is a need for exposure. Clark (2007) writes, “By studying history, we can avoid being passive anvils and become instead, hammers that can help forge new futures. Through historical analysis, we get the changes to exercise our minds and in bother a forward and backward direction. Then we are no longer prisoners in time, powerless captives of the so-called real world” (p. 280). Individuals such as Andy are studying the past to inform the present, and make an impact on the future. As human beings and members of society, we need to be actively seeking the past to help guide our decisions and actions of today and tomorrow. As educators we need to seek out our history of our nation, as there is so much that impacts and directly involves the education system.

    In A Nation Accountable, the US Department of Education (2008) shares, “We must leverages this information to achieve better results. We simply cannot return to the ‘ostrich approach’ and stick our heads in the sand while grave problems threaten our civic society, and out economic prosperity. We must consider structural reforms that go well beyond current efforts, as today’s students require a better education than ever before to be successful” (p. 6). We must take a look at our past and learn from it. We cannot take the stance of “oh that was in the past, so it isn’t relevant.” We need to see that the past is a valuable learning experience and tool. The past is a resource to help us in our fight for a better future. So as members of society, it is our responsibility to take an active interest in our history and find ways in which we can be a part of forging a new and improved history for the future generations.

  3. Annie:
    What really struck me during our visit to Philadelphia was the proximity of all the neighborhoods. When reading Dr. Sulayman Clark's book, The Rains, the Seventh ward seemed so far in relation to Independence Hall, however in actuality these two areas were only a stones throw away. I think Philadelphia's history shocked me since it was a completely split town. Although we usually hear of the abolitionist movement we do not see how the abolishment of slavery was not always welcomed by the citizens of the city of "Brotherly Love". In today economy it is easy for us to not see the problems of troubled areas as they are so far removed from the upper middle class areas of town. With the idea of "out of sight, out of mind" our struggle today is that we do not take the time to better these neighborhoods, and additionally the education system, since the hope is that the problems will just work themselves out. This is really key with the idea of the quote you used from Booker T. Washington as he is saying that no matter were we are in the world we will always be around people that are different from us and we need to learn to accept that. However what is lacking from this quote is the intention to not just get along, but to live and create a supportive and accepting community. I was very moved by Jacob Riis article called "How the Other Half Lives" (1890) since it showed now the middle and upper class can only avoid a situation so long before the truth and reality of the situation is uncovered. Although this article focuses on New York city's poor living conditions in the 1890's it reflects that in order to be aware and find ways to make living and education accessible you need to see where everyone, not just the majority, is coming from. This is completely relevant today in terms of educational system. Although a classroom holds student in the same place at the same time that does not mean each student is the same. Each has different home lives, interests, and abilities. Being "color-blind" to this situation and avoiding the differences can be just as harmful as assuming that one student’s performance is only a reflection of his/her abilities. As teachers we need to aware that where a student comes from is just as important as where a student goes. By having an understanding of how to support a children from all aspects of there lives will allow the to access education in ways that will benefit them most. Growing up as a Caucasian upper middle class female, I will never fully understand where a lower class, male student of color comes from, however I cannot be color blind to this issue as what he brings to the classroom is just as valuable as any other student. As a teacher I need to get to know the students and give each one an opportunity to express themselves. Many students may have unfortunate circumstances, but instead of ignoring the issue it is important to understand the whole person. We need not cast down our bucket from afar; we need to actively create a bond between each other.