Philadelphia City Hall Exhibit Shines Light on Untold Stories of Black Philadelphians

Philadelphia Black History: The People’s Stories” exhibit at City Hall pays tribute to the rich and diverse history of Black Philadelphians.

Philadelphia City Hall, known as the “People’s Building,” is currently hosting a compelling exhibit that celebrates the often overlooked stories of Black Philadelphians. Titled “Philadelphia Black History: The People’s Stories,” the exhibit features newly installed tiles on the floors of City Hall, each one dedicated to a different individual from Philadelphia’s Black history. The inspiration for the exhibit stems from the rediscovered Bethel Burying Ground in the Queen Village neighborhood, where 5,000 Black individuals were laid to rest during the 19th century. This exhibit aims to shed light on the lives and contributions of these individuals, showcasing their diverse talents and accomplishments.

Unearthing Forgotten Histories

The Bethel Burying Ground, forgotten for centuries, was only rediscovered in 2010. Kelly Lee, the executive director of the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy, explains that Philadelphia was a hub for free Black people during this time. These individuals were artists, doctors, teachers, and educators, contributing significantly to the city’s cultural and intellectual landscape. The exhibit aims to honor their memory and highlight their stories.

Art as a Medium for Storytelling

The exhibit features the work of artists Natasha Rethke and Duwenavue Johnson, who spent extensive time researching the lives of those buried at Bethel. Rethke’s tile tells the heartbreaking story of Lucretia Blake, a 12-year-old girl who witnessed the destruction of her neighborhood by white supremacists in 1851. Johnson’s piece focuses on Sarah Howard, a woman who lived a peaceful life and would have thrived as a tailor, baker, or artist in the Black artisan neighborhood of South 9th and 10th streets on Morrison.

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Diverse and Impactful Stories

Out of 80 art submissions, a selection committee chose 44 pieces that represent the diverse stories of Philadelphia’s Black history. The exhibit showcases family members, community members, and famous individuals who have left a lasting impact on the city. By elevating their stories through art, the exhibit aims to provide a comprehensive and nuanced view of the Black experience in Philadelphia.

A Celebration of Black History

“Philadelphia Black History: The People’s Stories” can be found on the 2nd, 4th, and 5th floors of City Hall until April 12. The exhibit invites visitors to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Philadelphia’s Black history, offering a space for reflection and appreciation. By shining a light on these untold stories, the exhibit encourages a deeper understanding of the city’s past and the contributions of its Black residents.


The “Philadelphia Black History: The People’s Stories” exhibit at City Hall is a powerful tribute to the often-overlooked individuals who shaped the city’s history. Through art and storytelling, the exhibit unearths forgotten stories and sheds light on the diverse talents and accomplishments of Black Philadelphians. By honoring their memory, this exhibit encourages visitors to reflect on the contributions of Black individuals throughout history and fosters a deeper appreciation for the city’s rich cultural heritage.