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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: July 9, 2002
Byline: various

Letters to the Editor: Liberty Bell and slave memorial

Stephan Salisbury's article "A visitor's innocent query spurs historic revelations" (Inquirer, July 3) aroused a feeling of outrage in me. How could the city of Philadelphia or even the United States of America allow one of its own citizens to demolish a national treasure? What makes this presidential residence any less important than the White House in Washington?

In this residence at the southeast corner of Sixth and Market Streets, our nation's first president established the official mold of the American presidency while the country was still in its infancy. Years before Washington took the oath of office, the house belonged to the grandson of William Penn, the founder of a colony that eventually became the second state to enter the union. Richard Penn's ownership of the house should have made it a candidate for preservation.

Now, more than ever, America looks to its past for guidance. How can we hope to learn from history when we allow our fellow man to destroy it?

In essence, America is our mother. We are her children. She gave us homes and all the natural resources imaginable to feed us. All she asks in return is a respect for all she has to offer. When we demolish buildings that have obvious roots of importance in history, we are weakening the spirit of our dear mother, who, after 225 years, continues to make us her top priority.

Marta Rusek Havertown

After reading several articles and commentaries on the National Park Service's plans for the Liberty Bell Pavilion, I am amazed by the shortsightedness (Inquirer, July 3). What is the rush to erect another memorial? This might be our final chance to thoroughly research the site and capitalize on the extraordinary perspective that it offers.

Yes, the Liberty Bell is a nifty symbol, but it's also static. Why not illustrate the unique significance of this Market Street location by incorporating all of its historical facets? Simply reading about the various inhabitants of the house is intriguing and deliciously ironic: Robert Morris, British Gen. Sir William Howe, Benedict Arnold, Presidents George Washington and John Adams, and the quartered slaves.

This site is a treasure. This is our opportunity to depict the unique role Philadelphia played in the colonial era in its full complexity.

Mary C. Mann Moorestown

Charles Blockson, curator of the Charles Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University, is quoted as saying, "A memorial to enslaved ancestors means more to me than the Liberty Bell" ("A protest today seeks memorial to slaves," July 3).

I suggest we have a good-spirited contest between what memorial visitors would be more interested in seeing: a slavery memorial or the Liberty Bell. I further suggest that the information given to visitors about the Liberty Bell remain the same while a slavery memorial document how, in many cases, black African slave traders put many tribal captives on boats for the New World. I would also suggest that it display information on the numbers of freed slaves who owned slaves, particularly in the South.

History can, indeed, truly teach us only if we use what we have learned to improve the lives of those around us. This will never happen as long as we continue to concentrate our available energy and resources on grievances that few remember, few understand and even fewer care about.

Lee Fisher Levittown


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