New Book: Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape: Deep Roots, Continuing Legacy

Posted by The Philadelphia Citizen on February 13, 2024

A veteran Philadelphia social studies teacher, Amy Jane Cohen, has written a new book about Black Philadelphia history, Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape: Deep Roots, Continuing Legacy.

When it comes to Black Philadelphia history, like many well-read locals, Amy Jane Cohen, “had what I confess was a typically Yankee perspective,” she writes in her new book, Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape: Deep Roots, Continuing Legacy. “Lynching, Jim Crow and voter suppression were part of southern history. The North, by contrast, was the home of abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, and the Harlem Renaissance … “

In 2005, the School District of Philadelphia required all high schools to teach a course in African American history. Cohen, then teaching social studies at Masterman, volunteered — and became “quickly disabused of the myth of stark regional difference.” Black History … follows a clear path from the Isabella, the first slave ship to unload its human cargo into the port of Philadelphia in 1684, through the Civil Rights movement, to today, bringing to light revelatory and actionable details. (Every chapter ends with a short list of things you can do to enrich your Philly Black history IQ.)

Why is this important? In the book’s foreword, Wendell Pritchett of Penn Law quotes James Baldwin:

History does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all we do.

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