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The Journey from Freedom to Liberty in Philadelphia

How the birthplace of the nation recognizes independence for all...

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Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
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Photo by Visit Philadelphia
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Photo by Visit Philadelphia
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Philadelphia, the birthplace of our formidable nation, is steeped in rich, complicated history.

The City of Brotherly Love is a city of independence for all, where the complexities of democracy — and the varying viewpoints of freedom and what is meant by liberty — can be experienced and discussed at places like the Liberty Bell Center , the Faith & Liberty Discovery Center , the Johnson House Historic Site and many other attractions where the narratives of those who've shaped our nation are at the forefront.

The juxtaposition of freedom and enslavement can be found throughout the region. Look for the story of Ona Judge at The President’s House in the Historic District, explanations of the Constitution and its Reconstruction amendments at the National Constitution Center , tales from the Underground Railroad stop at Belmont Mansion in Fairmount Park, and artifacts at the Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery in Germantown.

The juxtaposition of freedom and enslavement can be found at sites throughout the region.

Philadelphia embraces these different perspectives on freedom, which is why the city recognizes and celebrates two monumental holidays: Juneteenth and the Fourth of July .

While the United States of America has celebrated its history for nearly 250 years, many of its people have stood by knowing that they were not truly included in the celebration of independence. It wasn’t until 1865, with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, that slavery officially ended. The social protest movement of 2020 offers a glimpse at the work that still needs to be done to achieve equity all these years later.

The historical attractions, cultural sites and annual events listed below — developed in partnership with the Rosalyn J. McPherson of the ROZ Group, a Philadelphia-based diversity-and-inclusion consulting agency — are constant reminders of how far we’ve come and the progress to be made.

Greater Philadelphia prepares for the celebration of independence with the theme of Freedom – Liberty , a bold opportunity for a more inclusive experience beginning with Juneteenth and ending with the Fourth of July.

The region’s long-held Juneteenth traditions are now part of widely promoted Wawa Welcome America July 4th programming, giving visitors and locals more chances to celebrate independence and learn about the complex process of becoming free.

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    Places like the Johnson House Historic Site in Germantown, which served as an Underground Railroad stop; and Cliveden, where African American Revolutionary soldier Ned Hector fought to defend our new country on a property where enslaved people were kept, are as much a part of the nation’s founding as iconic sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Taken together, these sites — and the people they represent — offer a more complete picture of independence.

    The Freedom – Liberty celebration of Juneteenth is a good time to pay homage to the “griot-style” facts and tales passed down to people of color at the knees of relatives who ensured that the family’s young people had a sense of history: the colorful and humorous tales about the antics of uncles and aunties, the stories of hard work and dedication despite the circumstances, and the gripping stories of brutal realities.

    Philadelphia is rich with the Black experience — and this renewed approach to a celebration of independence is inclusive of those perspectives.

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