July 27, 2018

The Rarely Heard Stories of Enslaved African Americans in Philadelphia

The award-winning dramatic event, Liberty to Go to See, recently returned to Philadelphia’s Cliveden for a limited release in June 2018, thanks to a grant from the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Haley Foundation. The play digs deep into Cliveden’s layered history as a home significant in the American Revolution and also a place where enslaved and indentured African Americans lived and worked in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“We don’t normally hear about slavery existing in the North as much as we do in the South,” director Johnnie Hobbs says, “and that was a surprise to me as much as it was to anybody else.”

The play is in its fifth year of production and is based on research from the Chew Family Papers, documenting a family who lived at Cliveden, a National Trust Historic Site. The script was written by students from Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and it follows the lives of the Chew family’s enslaved and indentured workers from the 1760s through the 1860s.

Hobbs says, “The centerpiece of [the play] is race. It’s the thing that sort of bonds us together.”

Actor Khalil Munir adds, “As an artist, it’s our job to continue telling these very poignant stories.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Liberty to Go to See and the importance of telling stories that shed light on underrepresented histories.

Shannon Lawrence

Shannon Lawrence is a video producer who has worked on stories and videos for the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

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