TIP Fellows Visit Seventh Ward, Site of W. E. B. Du Bois’ Famed Study April 26, 2023 – Posted in: Uncategorized

As part of her TIP seminar, Penn Professor Amy Hillier led her fellows on a walking tour of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward. The area, which covers the blocks between Spruce and South Street from 6th to 23rd Street was once home to thousands of African Americans, many of whom migrated from the South in search of better opportunities in the North. The tour focused on the research of distinguished sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, W.E.B. Du Bois, who was commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania to study and document the lives of African Americans in the Seventh Ward during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Based on his research, Du Bois published The Philadelphia Negro in 1899.

The walking tour took fellows to various historical sites relevant to Du Bois’ research, including Mother Bethel A.M.E Church, the site of the 1842 Race Riots, the Mapping Courage mural, the home of civil rights leader Octavius Catto and the site of his murder, and the Institute of Colored Youth.

Author Dan Biddle was a guest speaker on the tour. Biddle is co-author of Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, which chronicles the life and contributions of Catto, who in addition to being a civil rights activist, was also a prominent educator, intellectual, and baseball promoter. One of Philadelphia’s most outspoken African Americans in the 19th century, Catto pushed to desegregate public transportation, encouraged African Americans to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War, and fought for the voting rights of African Americans in Philadelphia. He was tragically murdered while urging Seventh Ward residents to vote in the 1871 elections.

The tour reinforced materials that Hillier has covered in her seminar and will aid fellows in the development of curriculum units that teach Philadelphia public school students about the Seventh Ward.