Press

Praise for Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape: Deep Roots, Continuing Legacy by Amy Jane Cohen.

Featured Book

Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape
February 5, 2024, The Philadelphia Citizen

A veteran Philadelphia social studies teacher wrote a new book about Black Philadelphia history.

When it comes to Black Philadelphia history, like many well-read locals, Amy Jane Cohen, “had what I confess was a typically Yankee perspective,” she writes in her new book, Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape: Deep Roots, Continuing Legacy. “Lynching, Jim Crow and voter suppression were part of southern history. The North, by contrast, was the home of abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, and the Harlem Renaissance … “

In 2005, the School District of Philadelphia required all high schools to teach a course in African American history. Cohen, then teaching social studies at Masterman, volunteered — and became “quickly disabused of the myth of stark regional difference.” Black History … follows a clear path from the Isabella, the first slave ship to unload its human cargo into the port of Philadelphia in 1684, through the Civil Rights movement, to today, bringing to light revelatory and actionable details.

Opinion

Philly’s Black history can be seen through its landscape
February 7, 2024, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The seeds of Black history month were planted by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 — but to him, it was just a week, and not meant to be the only time people considered Black history. Rather, for him, “Negro History Week” was a time to emphasize “what has already been learned about the Negro during the year.”

That, of course, didn’t happen, even when the week was expanded to a month in 1976. Today, too many American educators have come to think of February as the one time of year to highlight the Black experience.

In the News

Mt. Airy author explores Black history in Philadelphia
February 8, 2024, Chestnut Hill Local

When the Philadelphia School Reform Commission passed a resolution in 2005 mandating that a year of African American history be a requirement for high school graduation, teacher Amy Jane Cohen said she knew “a tiny bit about the local Black experience.”

What she knew was a product of teaching an elective about Philadelphia history. But despite that limited background, Cohen, of Mt. Airy, volunteered to teach the course, embarking on what she described as a “steep learning curve.”

“In Amy Cohen’s able hands, the history of Philadelphia is Black history, from the enslaved laborers who built the eighteenth-century city and the Black abolitionists who fought to end slavery to the activists who led the city’s civil rights and Black Power movements. As if that were not enough, Cohen also highlights the vital contributions of Philadelphia’s public historians, whose advocacy for historical markers and memorials has inscribed Black history into the city’s built environment. Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape is essential reading for all who value honest and unapologetic assessments of the nation’s past.”

Matthew J. Countryman
Associate Professor of African American and African Studies and History at the University of Michigan, and author of Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia

“A polyvocal collection of hidden histories beaming a black light on spectacular intersectional lives who have made Philadelphia, this book helps unmute lost legacies of its public spaces and rethink stories of cityhood. Cohen offers an actionable Black atlas for navigating the nation’s most historic city—whether as a student, a visitor, or an everyday resident. Moreover, packaging this pluriverse of global Black history made locally provides an urgent model for practicing love of place by expanding who embodies the ‘echoes of heritage’ in America. The window is now wider for inviting more colorful, just futures.”

Matthew Jordan-Miller Kenyatta
Lecturer in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, and contributor to The Black Geographic: Praxis, Resistance, Futurity

Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape

Black Philadelphians have shaped Philadelphia history since colonial times. In Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape, Amy Cohen recounts notable aspects of the Black experience in Philadelphia from the late 1600s to the 1960s and how this history is marked in the contemporary city.