Historical parallels to today’s education worries at Germantown’s Fourth of July celebration

On a day when America’s independence is celebrated with barbeques and parades, some folks spent their day-off time in historic Germantown for Ring Out Freedom and Independence events.

At the Stenton — the summer home of James Logan — people enjoyed hotdogs, a make-your-own-ice-cream offering, a reenactment of Benjamin Franklin and live music by Run of the Mill String Band.

Tours were given at the Hood Cemetery — a historic burial place featuring the graves of 41 Revolutionary War soldiers.

Cliveden opened its doors for tours and interactive children’s activities as Philadelphia’s only Revolutionary War battle.

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Families also walked through rows of tombstones of Revolutionary War soldiers, black and white residents at the Concord School House and Upper Burying Ground.

While American flags waved in the breeze, children gathered at the quill-pen writing station and, people trickled in and out of the small school house.

Ceremonial bell ringing at Concord

Sitting atop the small school is a bell that rang 57 times to honor each Revolutionary War veteran buried on the grounds.

The bell was added to the school at 1818. Usually, the bell rings for each year since 1776 — 237, this year — but because of its fragile condition, volunteers monitored each swing.

“We all know that these are tough times for public education, and Germantown High School has felt that amongst the toughest,” John Pollack, president of the Concord site, said. “For me, this year’s Independence Day, and being at the school house, is a time to think about the challenges of learning in a democracy in a free society. Those were just as much challenges in 1775.”

Historic tie-in

Actress Alexandra Mays Ford portrayed “Oney Judge,” a slave to George and Martha Washington. Ford engaged the audience with stories of Judge’s life with the Washington family, her experiences in Philadelphia and how she ultimately escaped to New Hampshire for freedom.

“I see a lot of families here today,” Ford said. “It warms my heart. I see many types of different families and it makes me hopeful for the future.”

Kate and Jim Proud, residents of Germantown for 25 years, said they are fans of the neighborhood’s historic legacy. Kate is a former American history teacher; Jim is currently working on a book about William Penn.

“We’re fascinated by history, not by touring and just walking on sites,” Jim added. “We have to be very close to it and live in it. There are so many historical sites in Philadelphia, but this one is in our backyard.”

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