OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
ROOM 215 CITY HALL
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19107-3295
FAX (215) 686-2180
October 8, 2003
Bowser Law Center
250 S. 16th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Re: Avenging the Ancestors Coalition Liberty Bell Project
This letter is to confirm my support for your position that a commemorative project to honor the 8 enslaved Africans who resided at George Washington's White House be established at the Executive Mansion site. I applaud your efforts. When the country's greatest symbol of liberty is moved to its new home, we must fully include the plight and contribution of African Americans as a critical part of American history. As the home city of the Liberty Bell and the buildings in which the founding documents of our nation were written, we want to insure that the full history of the spirit of liberty and the struggle for equality is told.
History tells us that the 1830's were a time of great dissent and debate in Philadelphia, one of the centers of the abolitionist movement to end slavery. The inscription to "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof" is a quote from the old testament, Leviticus XXV:X that has become the international slogan for the primacy of freedom as a basic human right. But the abolitionists adopted the bell's inscription not only as a reminder of the American devotion to the principle of freedom but as a moral and indeed holy requirement that must apply to all people.
The association of the Liberty Bell with the fight to free those who were enslaved represented a pivotal point in American history. It was a clarion call to all men and women of good will, whatever their color, to recognize the injustice of the enslavement of Africans and their ancestors on American soil.
The eight Africans held in captivity in the President's House are indeed a symbol of the historical contradictions of a freedom loving people who owned slaves. We appreciate the energy and dedication of your coalition of historians, academics, religious and civic leaders to honor those held in bondage here.
To support your efforts, the City of Philadelphia is pleased to install a plaque on the portion of city owned land that abuts the new Liberty Bell Pavilion as a marker for the slave quarters at the entrance to the pavilion. In addition, we will join the efforts of your coalition and Congressman Chaka Fattah to raise the money necessary for the inclusion of a memorial to slavery as part of the proposed construction of the President's House monument. The City commits $1.5 million to this effort and also pledges to lobby at the state and federal level for full funding of this project.
The project is extremely important to all Americans. The final commemoration will represent the only significant tribute by the federal government to the history of slavery in this country.
With kind regards, I am,
John F. Street