Philadelphia, PA - Northern Liberties Business Improvement District announces plans to celebrate the neighborhood’s rich history this February. Launching for Black History Month are two new activations, including a new Audio Walking Tour: Northern Liberties Black History and Window Stories, a series of vinyl window clings that tell the stories of Black residents who lived in Northern Liberties in the 1800s.
The combined activities create a loop that pairs around the neighborhood, making for a stroll through Philadelphia’s original suburb. The activations will be live and ready to enjoy Friday, February 10th. While visiting the neighborhood in February, support Black-owned businesses, including 1040 Creative, Trunc, Art Lair Shave Parlor, Ends Hair Design & Day Spa, Maleek Jackson Fitness Boxing Gym, The 700, The Fitness Ethic, The Lancaster Barbershop, and others. Additionally, Trunc will host Back Then: The History of Us - Negro Spirituals, Dance Food, and More Every Saturday in February from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at 929 N. 2nd Street, plus Trunc will host Seen or Unseen Opening Reception - The art of Barbara Kigozi and Wanda Payne on February 11th from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
Northern Liberties is well known as a critical stop in the Underground Railroad during the mid-1800s, but at that time, it was also considered The Workshop of the World. Black residents were an essential part of that narrative, and Window Stories will provide viewers with a more textured understanding of their lives. From an oysterman to a historic church, the tour offers visitors an opportunity to explore the neighborhood’s cobblestone alleys and pre-civil war houses.
“We have such a rich history in this neighborhood,” said Northern Liberties Business Improvement District (NLBID) executive director Kristine Kennedy. “Much of it has been forgotten by modern Philadelphians, but Black History Month is the perfect time to bring some of it back to life.”
The Northern Liberties Audio Tour was formed from Kennedy’s deep research into Black history in Northern Liberties. “I kept trying to learn more about the Underground Railroad but only found vague platitudes. I wanted to know about the people and places that were a part of it. So I dug into census data and the personal accounts such as those captured by William Still,” said Kennedy.
Taking over storefronts with Window Stories is an extension of other work the NLBID has done activating the corridor. The audio tour is a little less than a mile long and can be completed in about half an hour.
Kennedy was introduced to Window Stories designer and copywriter Monna Morton by Dorothea Gamble, owner of a shop on North 2nd that showcases locally-made and Black-made goods. Morton is a professor of graphic design and advertising at
University of the Arts and shares a passion for telling stories through images and text. Morton worked with Kennedy on selecting the stories and then conducted her research to complete the narratives and accompanying visuals. Five storefront locations will host these vinyl window clings, printed with images and text that tell a specific Black history story.