What Is Juneteenth?

Exploring the roots of Juneteenth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia’s 7th Ward

Philadelphia’s 7th Ward legacy is such. The Vigilant Association of Philadelphia, an abolitionist organization founded in August 1837 with over 1,000 members hosted this nation’s first recorded parade. The parade took place in Philadelphia’s 7th Ward on the morning of August 1, 1842. The parade commemorated the eighth anniversary of the end of slavery in the British West Indies. The purpose of the parade was to promote and celebrate Jamaican Emancipation Day. The route of the parade was from Fifth & Lombard to Eighth & Lombard Street. Participants in the Parade carried a flag, the image below, depicting a slave breaking his chains and the rising sun of freedom.

As the parade participants neared Mother Bethel A.M.E Church, 6th and Lombard they were attacked by an Irish mob. The African and Caribbean marchers were chased, punched, kicked and beaten with sticks and bats. By the end of the day the mob torched an abolitionist meeting hall and The Second African Presbyterian Church on St. Mary Street.

The racist attack, referred to as The Lombard Street Riot, continued for two more days & caused many African citizens to flee the city, move out of the 7th Ward or be afraid to move into the 7th Ward

The brutal beatings and racist attacks by the Irish mob against people of color in the 7th Ward was not the first. The racist attacks goes as far back as August 11, 1834; when an Irishman quarreled with an African over seats on a merry-go-round known as the “flying horses” near Seventh and South Streets. Europeans mostly Irish began attacking and beating People of Color with fist, bats, and sticks. The next day on August 12, 1834, a group of Irishman assembled just outside the Moyamensing quarter, which had a significant portion of African residents, and began smashing African residents’ taverns, homes, and furniture. The following two days, August 13-15, 1834 Irish mobs tore down an African church in Southwark, sacked the First African Presbyterian Church, destroyed more than thirty Africans homes, and beat many African citizens in their path. People of Color in the 7th Ward constantly lived in fear of being attacked and murdered.

Racist attacks against Africans in the 7th Ward continued up to the Civil War between white men, & after the behind Africans back 1877 Presidential deal between white men that killed reconstruction and put Africans back in harm’s way in the new modern form of slavery. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Africans in the 7th Ward and throughout the U.S. were taken off the streets in masses and incarcerated.


Plaque Commemorating Lombard Street Riot

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