A (sort of) Teacher’s Guide

Amy Cohen learned most of the material covered in Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape through teaching it. This (sort of) Teacher’s Guide is a collection of primary sources, lesson ideas, film clips, web links, discussion prompts and so forth to assist educators in using Cohen’s book in their own classrooms.


Extending Chapter 1
Charles L. Blockson: Collecting & Marking Black History

Minutes 15:18-18:11 of the Philadelphia: The Great Experiment episode, In Penn’s Shadow describes slavery in early Philadelphia, Quaker involvement in the slave trade, and the first protest against slavery using a mix of reenactments, primary sources, and expert commentators. The accompanying educational materials include a primary source-based lesson plan about the protest. As you will see, the teachers have the option of using the full text of the protest or one of two abridged versions.


Extending Chapter 2
Community Formation in the Colonial City, the Ghosts of Washington Square

Project an image of The Fifteenth Amendment by George Bacon Wood Jr., a (white) Philadelphia artist who created this work for the Centennial Exposition, held in the city in 1876.

What is going on in the painting? (a black man has borrowed a white man’s pipe to light his own; the black man is particularly well-dressed; a white woman looks on passively from her stand selling agricultural goods)

What is the setting? (a brick sidewalk by a low brick wall, with an open area of trees and a few brick townhouses in the background). Indicate that the setting is Philadelphia’s Washington Square.

Why is the painting entitled The 15th Amendment? What was the artist’s intended message? (The 15th Amendment, passed in 1869 and ratified in 1870, gave African American men voting rights; this was a new provision when the painting was created; perhaps the artist wanted to indicate that greater political equality would lead to greater social equality)

How does students’ knowledge of Washington Square’s close historical affiliation with the African American community shape their understanding of/appreciation for the image? Do they think that the artist, George Bacon Wood, Jr., was aware of this historical connection between African Americans and Washington Square?


Extending Chapter 3
Envisioning Dinah, Stenton’s Ongoing Challenge

The Stenton website has extensive documentation about all aspects of the Dinah project, including PowerPoints about Dinah’s evolving story as the savior of Stenton.


Extending Chapter 4
Richard Allen & Absalom Jones: Leadership in the Center of Free Black Life

The Yellow Fever episode of the Philadelphia: The Great Experiment series provides a 30-minute overview of that cataclysmic event. If you prefer to focus just on the roles of Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and other members of the free Black community, you can show a clip from 11:39-22:17.

In the lesson plans I wrote for that episode, you can find a primary source activity that uses one excerpt from Matthew Carey’s A Short Account of the Malignant Fever (that accused Black people of profiting from their work with yellow fever patients)—and five excerpts from the A Narrative of the Proceedings of Black People….A Refuation written by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones.

NOTE: The teacher materials have an answer key; the student materials have the sheets that can be passed out to students.

Chapter 3 of the PBS Africans in America series is called “Brotherly Love” and focuses on Philadelphia’s free Black community. The website for the series contains numerous primary sources and other educational resources.

When I was writing Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape, the website 1838 Black Metropolis did not yet exist. It has a remarkable collection of educational materials (primary sources, videos, illustrated stories, data sets, self-guided walking tours and more) about the vibrant Free Black community of Philadelphia during the 19th century.


Extending Chapter 5
President’s House Memorial: P.S. George Washington Slept Here

A clip of Sisters in Freedom on the History Making Productions website tells the story of Ona Judge’s courageous escape. On pages 15-20 of the Teacher’s Guide I wrote to accompany the film, you will find a lesson plan in which students use two contradictory primary sources to answer the question of “Why was President George Washington unable to return Ona Judge to his family after she fled the President’s House in Philadelphia?” The lesson uses the Reading Like a Historian methodology that was developed by the Stanford History Education Group. An explanation of this method can be found on pages 12-14 of the guide.


Extending Chapter 6
Pennsylvania Hall: City of Brotherly Love

Another clip of Sisters in Freedom recreates the burning of Pennsylvania Hall. The Teacher’s Guide contains numerous related resources:

  • On pages 2-3, biographies of leading abolitionists
  • On pages 4-5, a timeline of events related to the burning of Pennsylvania Hall
  • On pages 6-7, text of speeches given by Sarah Mapps Douglass and Angela Grimke Weld
  • On pages 8-11, other activity ideas and a copy of the “Anti-Slavery Alphabet”
  • On pages 22-30, a Reading Like a Historian lesson that uses four different primary sources to try to answer the question of “Who was responsible for the burning of Pennsylvania Hall?”

Extending Chapter 7
A Pantheon of Heroes: Uncovering Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad

I developed an activity using entries in William Still’s Underground Railroad in which students learn the story of one freedom seeker and then interact with students who have read Still’s description of other freedom seekers. By the end of the activity, students have heard the stories of up to fourteen different people profiled by William Still. You can find a description of the activity on pages 2-3 and an answer key on pages 9-14 of the Teacher Materials. The materials to be provided to students can be found on pages 6-22 of Student Materials.

Many of the stories and other resources featured on the incredible 1838 Black Metropolis website are about people who came to Philadelphia via the Underground Railroad.


Extending Chapter 8
Octavius Catto and A Quest for Parity: A Monumental Statement

An abridged and a full Teacher’s Guide for the film Octavius Catto: A Legacy for the 21st Century are available. There are extensive materials about Octavius Catto at this website that was developed to coincide with the unveiling of the Quest for Parity memorial. I wrote a condensed biography of Catto that is available in digital form. The hard copy version of the condensed biography has full color reproductions of numerous primary sources, and there are questions at the end of each chapter. If you would like a class set (and are in the Philadelphia region), let me know and I will deliver them to you.


Extending Chapter 9
W.E.B. Du Bois and the Seventh Ward: Reviving The Philadelphia Negro

A curriculum and other materials about Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro, and the Seventh Ward are available at The Ward.


Extending Chapter 10
First African Baptist Church: Sacred Sacrifices and Real Estate Realities

There are a wealth of sources and materials about the Christian Street corridor that may be useful found within the nearly 500-page nomination to make this area a historic district.


Extending Chapter 11
Julian Frances Abele: The Unlikely Figurehead of Black Doctor’s Row

In 2021, Julian Abele’s biographer, Dreck Wilson, spoke about Abele’s role in designing the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the talk is available as an hour-long video. A biography of Abele written for the University of Pennsylvania is concise and has a focus on his life in Philadelphia. Students may be intrigued by the following 1902 yearbook  photograph of Abele when he was elected president of the Architectural Society as a senior at the University of Pennsylvania.


Extending Chapter 12
Alain Locke, Triple Minority and Native Son

Students may be interested to read Alain Locke’s contribution to the Black Opals, a short-lived literary pamphlet directed at Black youth in Philadelphia.


Extending Chapter 13
Marian Anderson & Sadie Alexander: A Tale of Two Cities

The Philadelphia: The Great Experiment episode Awakening: 1900-1920 brings this period to life and includes a reenactment of Marian Anderson’s early years in Philadelphia. You can find the 3-minute Anderson clip here.

There are two exemplary websites that can help students explore the Great Migration to Philadelphia: Goin’ North, created by students at West Chester University, has oral histories, biographies, and archival sources related to the Great Migration to Philadelphia from 1910 to 1930. The Great Migration: A City Transformed was a multi-media project of Scribe Video Center that focuses on the role of institutions that were central to supporting the influx of migrants (e.g. Christian Street YMCA, Mother Bethel Church). In the educational materials for the Awakening, you will find an interactive activity about the Great Migration to Philadelphia that uses oral histories.


Extending Chapter 14
The All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors: The Prolonged Battle for a Place on the Parkway

The Association for Public Art website has a photo-rich history of the All Wars Memorial that will make the story more vivid for students. A blog entitled “How black Philadelphians fought for soldiers during World War I” by the Smithsonian Museum of American History tells the story of Philadelphia’s Crispus Attucks Circle, an initiative of the city’s Black community to make medical care available to African American soldiers. The building of Mercy Hospital (workplace of many inhabitants of “Black Doctors Row”) was the result of the community’s efforts, and Marian Anderson sang at the hospital’s dedication. The blog includes a brief video and images of several primary sources.


Extending Chapter 15
Paul Robeson: The Philadelphia Retirement of a Renaissance Man

When Malcolm X Came to Penn details a 1963 visit to the University of Pennsylvania and discusses how Malcolm X has influenced current Penn students, professors, and alumni. It includes a link to an article at the time of the visit in the Daily Pennsylvanian about how the overwhelmingly white audience responded to Malcolm X.


Extending Chapter 16
The Brief Life of Malcolm X. High School: What’s in a Name?

I strongly recommend taking the time to have students watch Robeson’s testimony in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. You can find a recording and a transcript at the Zinn Education Project website as well as related information and sources. In addition to many other Robeson-related materials and lesson plans on the Zinn Education Project site, you can find a recording of a discussion about Robeson featuring Philadelphia’s Greg Carr, a renowned Howard University professor.


Extending Chapter 17
Reverend Leon Sullivan: North Philadelphia’s Lion of Zion

On the Historical Society of Pennsylvania website, you will find a lesson I wrote called  From Boycotts to Black Power that was inspired by a flyer for a selective patronage movement targeting A & P supermarkets and led by Reverend Leon Sullivan and the 400 Ministers.


Extending Chapter 18
Cecil B. Moore: Civil Rights Boss

You can find the 23-minute film Cecil’s People: The Freedom Fighters and educational materials at the History Making Productions website.


Extending Chapter 19
Philadelphia’s Black Power Movement: Coming Full Circle

On the Historical Society of Pennsylvania website, you will find a lesson I wrote called  Civil Rights Meeting Flyers that was inspired by a flyer for an appearance of Stokely Carmichael at the Church of the Advocate. On the following page, there is a flyer from the 1967 walkout that was given to me by a retiring Central High School teacher who had been teaching at the time.