Posted January 29, 2021

How Black History Has Shaped Philadelphia and the Coolest Black-Owned Businesses to Support There

Destinations

Philadelphia is a pedestrian-friendly town that stays sweet on our minds like block parties and penny candy, as neo-soul star and Philly native Jill Scott has mused in song. Soul music has deep roots here—it’s where Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff created the “sound of Philadelphia” via R&B legends like Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Phyllis Hyman, and the O’Jays.

Philly is also bursting with Black art, hidden Black history gems and flourishing Black-owned businesses. Ready to take a long walk? Let us be your guide.*

Philadelphia is brimming with historic charm. Photo Credit: Ir Like via Unsplash.

A History Lesson

From museums and churches to Colonial and Civil War era landmarks, learn how African Americans have shaped the history and culture of the nation’s birthplace.

Walk in the footsteps of the country’s founding fathers along the charming, cobblestone streets of Old City, America’s most historic square mile. Stop at the Liberty Bell Center for an up close and personal look at the iconic, cracked Liberty Bell, which abolitionists adopted as a symbol of freedom. Near Independence Hall, the African American Museum in Philadelphia spotlights trailblazing Black Philadelphians, provocative exhibitions, and mixed media works by artists of color.

In Center City, put on your Sunday best and come, all ye faithful to the stained glass-adorned sanctuary of Mother Bethel A.M.E., the mother church of the nation’s first Black denomination. Founded by Rev. Richard Allen in 1787, the church’s basement houses Allen’s crypt, as well as original pews and muskets used by Black soldiers during the War of 1812.

Visit the Johnson House Historic Site, a Quaker home in the historic Germantown neighborhood, and the city’s only intact location along the Underground Railroad. Stand where African Americans fleeing slavery found safe refuge on their road to freedom. Tour reservation required.

If these Old City walls could only talk. Photo Credit: Ethan Hoover via Unsplash.

Located in the sprawling Fairmount Park, Belmont Mansion is an 18th century house museum dedicated to colonial history and the 19th century network of people and places that kept the Underground Railroad running.

A City Full of Heart and Art

Like a living canvas, the city of Philadelphia is peppered with art. And you can’t miss the awe-inspiring murals that canvas public spaces across a diversity of neighborhoods.

Perfect for a socially distanced excursion, the outdoor murals commissioned by Mural Arts Philadelphia can be viewed via a walking or trolley tour. One of the newer works is artist Russell Craig’s powerful “Crown” mural above the entrance of the Municipal Services Building, symbolic of the Black Lives Matter movement’s fight for social justice and racial equality.

Tucked away in a three-story Victorian home in Germantown, the Colored Girls Museum celebrates Black Girl Magic via art and everyday artifacts like dolls and photographs. Call to arrange a guided tour.

5 Cool Black Businesses to Support Now

Blew Kind named her welcoming cafe Franny Lou’s Porch after Black female civil rights activists Fannie Lou Hammer and Francis E. W. Harper, and the community space in the East Kensington nabe brims with creative energy. Even the food is radical—try an immunity-boosting Sick & Tired Ginger Beer and a Pro-Liberation grilled cheese sammie.

Pick up a Catwoman comic and a Philly fair trade coffee at Ariell Johnson’s Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse, the only Black woman-owned shop of its kind.

Level up your beauty shopping experience at Marsh + Mane, where owner Jenea Robinson caters to Black women with welcoming vibes and a self-care sanctuary stocked with hair, bath, and body essentials.

Peruse classic and new Black literature while you sip hot chocolate and nosh on a vegan brownie at Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books—academic, author and activist Marc Lamont Hill’s community bookstore in Germantown.

Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books is a neighborhood hub for ideas and discussion. Photo courtesy of Uncle Bobbie’s.

Raw vegan chef Nyeisha will liven up your taste buds (try the chickpea chili with a side of barbecue mushrooms) at her All the Way Live Cafe, with cozy locations in Germantown and Chestnut Hill.

*With things being the way they are, double-check business hours and days of operation before you go to the locations listed above.

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