Germantown symposium to discuss public-education evolution since the Colonial era

 Anthony Benezet, moved from his native France to Germantown in the early 18th century and became one of the first educators in America to offer classes to women and persons of color. (Courtesy of Historic Germantown)

Anthony Benezet, moved from his native France to Germantown in the early 18th century and became one of the first educators in America to offer classes to women and persons of color. (Courtesy of Historic Germantown)

On Friday and Saturday, a Historic Germantown symposium will link educational issues from colonial times to the present day through the works of Anthony Benezet.

Benezet, neé Antoine Bénézet, moved from his native France to Germantown in the early 18th century. Working at what is now William Penn Charter School, he became one of the first educators in America to offer classes to women and persons of color.

The activities for the weekend, called “Equally Entitled to Freedom: Benezet Now, Benezet Then,” include a roundtable discussion which will bring together voices such as Masterman Middle and High School Principal Marjorie Neff, School District Curriculum Specialist Melvin Garrison and the Library Company’s John C. Van Horne.

The discussion will compare “how a school like Masterman is dealing with the change in public schools” to historical challenges to public education, said Historic Germantown executive director Barbara Hogue.

“All events are free so we don’t want it to be an academic conference,” said Hogue, adding the events are for “people of all ages.”

Scheduled events

Friday

An exhibition and a talk featuring the original 1688 Protest Against Slavery document and rare books written by Benezet from the collections at the Germantown Historical Society and The University of Pennsylvania will occur at the Germantown Historical Society, 5501 Germantown Ave.

The evening continues with a lecture by Katherine Gerbner, a history professor at the University of Minnesota. That 6 p.m. talk is titled “Writing Against Slavery: Germantown, Quakers, and the Beginnings of the Anti-Slavery Movement.”

Saturday

Welcoming remarks from Dr. Maurice Jackson will be offered at 9:30 a.m. at the Germantown Friends Meeting Social Room, 47 W. Coulter St.

From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., “Perspectives on Benezet’s Life in Germantown” will offer participants the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops at three Historic Germantown sites:

— “Sustainability and Farming Demonstrations” at Grumblethorpe, 5267 Germantown Ave.

— “Abolitionist History Activities” at Johnson House, 6306 Germantown Ave.

— “The Challenges of Learning in Benezet’s Philadelphia” at Concord School House, 6309 Germantown Ave.

At 1:15 p.m., Dr. Maurice Jackson will offer keynote address “Anthony Benezet Then and Now” at Yarnall Auditorium, 31 W. Coulter St.

Then, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., the aforementioned roundtable discussion will occur.

This event is sponsored by Historic Germantown, Germantown Friends School, Germantown Friends Meeting, William Penn Charter School, Germantown United CDC and the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.