Historic papers document life in slavery

    Researchers at a historic house in Germantown have been sorting through 200-thousand original documents from one of Philadelphia’s founding families.

    Researchers at a historic house in Germantown have been sorting through 200,000 original documents from one of Philadelphia’s founding families. The papers offer a detailed account of slaves and slaveowners in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has attracted the attention of an African-American reparations group.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090812pccliveden.mp3]

    The Cliveden House was built by Benjamin Chew, who owned several plantations in Delaware and Maryland. By pouring over family papers, house historians are discovering new information about the hundreds of slaves owned by the family, including abuse and rebellious acts.

    The National Coalition of Black Reparations in America wants to work with the directors of the House to develop a teaching curriculum from the papers. Cliveden House historian Phillip Sietz says a partnership with the coalition will expand the scope of programs.

    Sietz: In the past it was a place to see the furniture. In the future we’re hoping there will be a lot more stories, and more people who will come and see themselves in the stories they hear, and in a more fundamental sense then they have so far.

    The partnership could result in Afro-centric tours of the house and visits to the Delaware plantation property, near Dover.

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