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BH-50641-14

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA 19107-5699)
Beth Twiss Houting (Project Director: 03/05/2014 to present)

Cultures of Independence: Perspectives on Independence Hall and the Meaning of Freedom

Two one-week workshops for seventy-two teachers on Independence Hall in Philadelphia as a civic gathering place and repository of collective memory.

Originally built as the Pennsylvania State House in 1732, Independence Hall in Philadelphia served for more than four decades as the seat of Pennsylvania's provincial government before gaining its place on the national and world stage as the setting for the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The surrounding Independence Square (named as such in 1824) later assumed a role as a place for the advancement of social causes. Frederick Douglass spoke against slavery in Independence Square in 1844; Susan B. Anthony spoke there in defense of women's rights in 1876. During the last century, it emerged as a location for ethnic parades, holiday celebrations, and political demonstrations--a role it continues to fill as part of Independence National Historic Park. The new workshop gathers this long and storied history together around a guiding question, "What is the role of an iconic landmark in a culture?" Historian Gary Nash (University of California, Los Angeles) launches the workshop with discussion of his Landmarks of the American Revolution, part of the Oxford University Press series, Guide to Historic Places, and a review of Pauline Maier's classic work, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, a pre-workshop assigned reading. On day two at Independence Hall, project co-director and historian Charlene Mires (Rutgers University, Camden) develops the theme, "The Foundation of an Icon." On day three, participants tour the Liberty Bell site and the site of the President's House, with lectures by historians Randall Miller (Saint Joseph's University) and Emma Lapsansky-Werner (Haverford College) on "African Americans in the City of Independence" and "Abolition and the Liberty Bell," respectively. On the fourth day, participants visit the National Archives and Records Administration, with lectures by Holly Holst (National Park Service) and Dr. Mires on "Remember the Women" and "Expressing and Expanding National Identity." On day five, participants visit the Philadelphia History Museum and hear a lecture by historian Tom Sugrue (University of Pennsylvania) on "Protest in Place." On the workshop's final day, participants tour the National Constitution Center (NCC), guided by Dr. Mires and NCC educator Kathleen Maher, who discuss the town hall as a stage for national discourse. Participants study primary documents, art, and artifacts: Lafayette memorabilia; nineteenth-century souvenir canes; the Hucksters' Petition to the Select and Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia, 1805; Susan B. Anthony's Declaration of Rights of the Women, 1876; and others. In addition to the Maier text, scholarly works include Eric Foner's The Story of American Freedom; Gary Nash's Forging Freedom: the Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community; and Charlene Mires's Independence Hall in American Memory.

[Media coverage]

Project fields:
U.S. History

Program:
Landmarks of American History

Division:
Education Programs

Total amounts:
$148,246 (approved)
$147,806 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2014 – 12/31/2015