Stories We Know

Who were the Black individuals living at and around the Garden during the time the Bartram family owned this land, and what were the circumstances of their lives?

A 2017 research project focused on the history of Black people at Bartram’s Garden has expanded our understanding of this place and its past. Artist Aislinn Pentecost-Farren worked with research historian Sharece Blakney and Bartram’s staff to expand what is known about the Black history of the garden.

The historical discoveries made by Blakney speak to the humanity of people who lived in and around Bartram’s Garden in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and the inhumanity they suffered, both in their time and in their absence from the historical record. The details of their stories have the power to reach the deepest parts of us because they describe the way our ancestors were treated, how they treated others, and the essential fallacies at the heart of this nation’s founding.

In response, we seek to be as open, thoughtful, and inclusive as possible in the decision-making surrounding the sharing and interpretation of these materials. Blakney has continued her research, and Bartram’s Garden is currently seeking funding for a participatory community history process that will support further research and create guidelines for sharing this history with the public at the Garden.

Blakney’s research as of the end of 2017 is collected into a booklet called Stories We Know, edited by Pentecost-Farren. The history is paired with essays that reflect on the meaning of the research, and poetry by four youth at Sankofa Farm. The booklet is available to the public in the Bartram’s Garden Welcome Center. It is priced at the cost of printing and all proceeds will go toward reprinting. A digital version can be downloaded for free below.


Download a copy of the full publication.


More Stories We Know

Sharece Blakney continues her research into the Black history of Kingsessing and Southwest Philadelphia with More Stories We Know, a series of vignettes further exploring the lives and histories of this area.

George Bartram

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Life on Oak Street

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Slavery, Freedom, and Oak Street

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This project was initiated as part of Southwest Roots, a partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia funded by ArtPlace America.