Philadelphia, commonly referred to as the birthplace of our nation has an extensive history, one in which African Americans have played a significant role in. The city’s rich history is home to important African American sites and landmarks, which often go unrecognized.

To celebrate Juneteenth, the Philadelphia Union have created a virtual tour of sites across Philadelphia that celebrate and honor the remarkable contributions that black Americans have made to the composition of Philadelphia.

Our list features museums, landmarks, churches, and other historical sites. These locations represent African American history through a multitude of educational opportunities for visitors of all ages.

Whether walking the extraordinary streets of Philadelphia or viewing the tour from the comfort of your own home, we hope that this tour illustrates the successes, struggles and influences of African Americans through the centuries in Philadelphia.


The African American Museum in Philadelphia

Celebrating its 45th year, The African American Museum in Philadelphia is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage and culture of African Americans.

Belmont Mansion

Preserved and transformed into the Underground Railroad Museum, the Belmont Mansion was home of the abolitionist Judge Richard Peters, opponent to the Fugitive Slave Act and precedent-setting judicial decision-maker. Visitors can take a self-guided tour to view historical artifacts and hear narratives about the site’s history.

Octavius V. Catto Memorial

This monument is Center City’s first statue of a specific African American. Catto led civil rights efforts in the 19th century that included efforts to desegregate the city’s streetcars, fighting for equal voting rights, and working as an intellectual and teacher.

Johnson House

Johnson House sits right along Germantown Avenue and is Philly’s only accessible and intact stop on the Underground Railroad. Built in 1768, It was owned by a family of Quaker abolitionists and in the late 19th century served as a safe house for slaves making their way to freedom. Today, John House doubles as a Center for Social Advocacy.

John Coltrane House

John Coltrane, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of his early career honing his skills in Philadelphia. Coltrane’s home at 1511 N. 33rd Street is worth a worth a visit, although it is not open to the public and is currently waiting to be restored. Just a few blocks away from his home is a new mural which was created by Ernel Martinez and debuted in late 2017.

New Freedom Theatre

Originally home to renowned actor Edwin Forrest, the New Freedom Theatre has enjoyed a long history on North Broad serving the city’s African-American community and training actors such as Leslie Odom, Jr., who went on to star in Broadway’s Hamilton. Also on North Broad is the Uptown Theatre, which enjoyed years as part of the “chitlin circuit,” hosting live rhythm and blues shows for and by African-Americans.

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

This stately stone church in Society Hill is considered the mother church of the nation’s first black denomination. Founded by Reverend Richard Allen in 1787, Mother Bethel sits on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African-Americans in the U.S. Beneath the church is a museum that features Allen’s tomb and other artifacts.

Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts

Formed in 1935 through the efforts of Philadelphia’s African American musicians’ union, Union Local No. 274 of the American Federation of Musicians, the Clef counted among its members John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie and played a significant role in the advancement of jazz in Philadelphia and the world.

Washington Square

One of city planner William Penn’s five original parks, was once known as Congo Square. A wayside in the city-block park describes activities of three centuries ago, when free and enslaved Africans gathered at the then potter’s field during holidays and fairs to celebrate traditions of their homelands. 6th Street between Walnut & Locust Streets.

Paul Robeson House

West Philadelphia’s Paul Robeson House served as the residence for the esteemed human rights activist, scholar, attorney, actor, athlete and singer during the last decade of his life. Tours (by appointment only) give visitors a chance to hear songs he recorded, learn about Robeson’s politics and discover his life of accomplishments — including his family’s 18th-century roots in Philadelphia.