A Summer Symposium on the Black History of Kingsessing

Last season we published a book called Stories We Know to share the findings of a research project seeking to learn about the Black history of Bartram’s Garden and Kingsessing. This research was conducted by historian Sharece Blakney, and the book was published in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia. If you have not yet had an opportunity to see the book, you can purchase it at the Bartram’s Garden Welcome Center or you can find the entire book available for free on our website.

This year we have invited Ms. Blakney, who recently completed her Master’s degree in History from Rutgers University, back to continue her research and try to learn more about the free black families she has identified to be living along what is now Woodland Avenue during the 1700s and 1800s. As new research and information comes into our archive through Ms. Blakney’s research, we are faced with many questions about how this story should be shared. What is the best way to tell these stories? Who are the people best suited to making the decisions about how these stories are told? And who should do the telling?

In the hopes of answering these questions, we will be holding a month-long symposium in August that will feature various types of events. One event, currently scheduled for August 24, will be a panel discussion that will be open to the public. We hope that this event will introduce this research to a wider Southwest audience as well as begin an open dialogue about these questions concerning how history is told, who gets to tell it, and whose stories we share.

The month of August will also feature several tours and workshops that bring up similar questions. Ms. Blakney will give a tour of the Garden that discusses her research findings. Seed saver Owen Taylor of True Love Seeds will talk about how we save stories of our ancestors through the food we grow and eat. We are also planning a workshop on historical fiction to talk about how we can use our imaginations to think about the lives that have slipped through the historical record. Please join us this summer as we talk about the stories we know and the stories we don’t with the hope of connecting the facts of the past to our present-day lives. For questions, contact Aseel Rasheed at arasheed@bartramsgarden.org.

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