Tucked into two small rooms under the Germantown Historical Society, this is one of Philadelphia’s best secret museums. A collection of slavery artifacts that is centered around the personal collection of director, Gwen Ragsdale, and her husband, Justin, who began the collection with a slave collar (shown by Erick in the photo). He found it hidden away in a trunk after the death of his “Uncle Bubb,” whom he spent summers with in the south as a child.
The 2 small rooms are packed with items showing the history of slavery from its beginnings in Africa, through the Jim Crow period, and into the modern era. From a 1700’s “resource” map of Africa (Negroland) showing where to get the best slaves for various needs (rice planting, heavy manual labor, etc.) to a KKK robe and photos of lynchings and burnings, the museum contains half artifacts (slave manacles, branding irons, badges), half documents. So many topics are covered; we all learned something new.
No photos are allowed in the museum, but a booklet is for sale that discusses many of the details highlighted in the tour.
All visits must be pre-booked and are led by Mrs. Ragsdale, who is knowledgeable, passionate, and interesting – and great at linking the past to issues of today. Tobey, Erick, and I agree that this was one of the best tours ever. Genuinely thought provoking, leaving us with much to ponder….
One of the best ways impact disadvantaged communities today is to patronize black and brown owned businesses:
“Cool People, Dope Books, Great Coffee” is the motto of Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, a black owned bookstore/coffee shop located across the street from the museum. In addition to the cute cafe with coffee and treats, they have an extensive selection (kids stuff, too) of works by black writers. Shhh.. don’t tell Erick that I got him a book for his birthday.
Come for the mission, stay for the food. The goal of Down North Pizza is to reduce recidivism by hiring formally incarcerated folks, paying them fair wages, training them to become chefs, all while serving outstanding Detroit-style pizza. And the crab fries…..mmmm (yup-actual crab!). Located in North Philly, about a 15 mn. drive from Germantown.