Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776 - 1876, Presented by PECO Premieres June 19, 2009
(Philadelphia, PA) -- Beginning June 19, 2009, visitors to the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) will experience cutting-edge technology while immersing themselves in the next level of the museum experience with the opening of Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776 - 1876, presented by PECO. This state-of-the-art interactive exhibit will use a blend of technology, primary source material, artifacts and stunning graphics to provide insight into a perspective of American history that has rarely been told.
“Audacious Freedom gives us the opportunity to celebrate the richness of the culture and experiences of people of African descent”, explained AAMP’s President and CEO Romona Riscoe Benson. “Philadelphia was an economically strong, socially dynamic and culturally cosmopolitan environment during this period. People of color played a vital role as entrepreneurs, craftsmen and advocates for social justice. Telling their story is a critically important part of the Museum’s mission and responsibility to this community and to the overall fabric of the role of African Americans in American history. ”
The African American experience in early Philadelphia is one of national importance, especially given the City's role in the founding of the new nation and the birth of American democracy. The paradox between slavery and freedom was especially evident given that Philadelphia had one of the largest populations of free blacks during the time period. Philadelphia’s free blacks provided many enslaved with a model for what freedom could be and one of the significant themes that will be explored in the exhibit is the role that people of African descent played in the abolition of their own people. Visitors will also learn of the early black entrepreneurs, educators, and the families whose descendants are still living in the region.
The overall goal of Audacious Freedom is to give visitors a face-to-face encounter with the bold and fearless people who dared to challenge conventional attitudes and celebrate their firm belief that African Americans had the right to be free. Through this exhibit visitors will learn who the people were, how they lived and worked, what they believed, and their aspirations. When entering the Museum, visitors will be welcomed with a general overview of the exhibition in Gallery 1, including an interactive timeline, highlighting a sequence of images, all drawn from the historical record, that span 100 years of history. The images found on the timeline will illuminate and explore topics of relevance including entrepreneurship, environment, education, religion, and family traditions.
In Gallery 2, visitors will be surrounded by what appear to be ten full-size figures of trailblazers from 18th-century Philadelphia. The figures are actually full-size video projections, patiently waiting for a visitor to approach and actively engage them. Once activated, the individual trailblazer delivers an impassioned monologue about life in Philadelphia between during the time period. Adjacent to each full-size screen will be a small touch-screen complete with a menu of topics that this particular trailblazer will discuss upon activation.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia has received major support through its ongoing Standing on the Shoulders campaign for the installation and pre-fabrication of Audacious Freedom. The total cost of the project is $4.5 million, with $1.5 going toward the exhibition and the additional $3 million supporting facility renovations. The Standing on the Shoulders campaign has already received enthusiastic support, including a Lead Gift from PECO, Visionary Gifts from Dr. Walter and Mrs. Beverly Lomax & The Lomax Family Foundation and a Pillar Gift from Macy’s East. Additionally the City of Philadelphia has provided funding to assist with facility improvements related to the exhibition.
The exhibit is being designed by Eisterhold & Associates Inc., a world renowned firm from Kansas City, MO whose portfolio includes works at the National Civil Rights Museum, Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum, The Rosa Parks Museum and Children’s Wing, Jurassic Park Discovery Center, Federal Reserve Banks, and the Center for Technology and Innovation. Eisterhold & Associates was selected as the result of a national Request for Proposals. Dr. Spencer Crew, an Eisterhold Associate and Clarence J. Robinson professor of American, African American, and Public History, at George Mason University, is the lead historian for the project. Dr. Crew is also the former head of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH.
Scheduled to open on historic Juneteenth (June 19) 2009, a day that commemorates the announcement and enforcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, Audacious Freedom solidifies the African American Museum in Philadelphia as a key player in the overarching Historic Philadelphia, especially given its close proximity to the National Constitution Center, Independence Visitors Center, and the upcoming President’s House.
“The impact that Audacious Freedom will have on AAMP is unprecedented”, said AAMP Board Chairman, Ernest Jones. “This bold and ambitious project will provide both children and adults with an unparalleled history of the place where they live and the people who helped create it.”
For more information about Audacious Freedom and other events and exhibitions at AAMP, please call 215-574-0380 or visit AAMP’s Website, www.aampmuseum.org