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Henry Minton House Nomination - Philadelphia Historical Commission

On April 12, 2019, I commented in support of the nomination of the Henry Minton Residence for listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

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Henry Minton House Nomination - Philadelphia Historical Commission

  1. 1. My name is Faye Anderson. I am director of All That Philly Jazz, a place-based public history project that is documenting and contextualizing Philadelphia’s golden age of jazz. I am a member of Avenging The Ancestors Coalition, the group that spearheaded the President’s House memorial on Independence Mall. Although the site lacks architectural integrity, it tells the story of George Washington’s slaves. I am here today in support of the nomination of 204 South 12th Street for listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. As you may know, this year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in British North America. As the nation commemorates 400 years of African American history, the story cannot be told without Philadelphia which was home to the largest free black community in the country. Henry Minton resided at 204 South 12th Street. His neighbors included William Still, Father of the Underground Railroad and a regular guest at Minton’s home. Minton belonged to an elite guild of caterers and was a leader in the free black community. In The Philadelphia Negro, W.E.B. DuBois wrote that Minton “wielded great personal influence, aided the Abolition cause to no little
  2. 2. degree, and made Philadelphia noted for its cultivated and well-to-do Negro citizens.” There is not much more to add other than Minton provided freedom fighter John Brown “with bed and board” shortly before his raid upon Harper’s Ferry. It should also be noted that Minton is listed on the iconic Civil War poster, “Men of Color, To Arms!” Clearly, the nomination satisfies Criteria A and J for Designation. The provenance of the front façade is a distraction. The property is not being nominated because of its architectural significance. So the National Register roadmap for evaluating integrity is irrelevant. Viewed through the African American lens, it’s not about bricks and mortar. It’s about recognizing that our stories matter. African American history matters. It is undisputed that Henry Minton purchased 204 South 12th Street in 1853 and lived there to his death in 1883. The staff acknowledges that Minton is an important figure in Philadelphia’s history. Applying Criteria A and J, the property is associated with the life of a person significant in the past and exemplifies the cultural, political, economic, social and historical heritage of the community. Indeed, no less an authority than W.E.B. DuBois attested that Minton put Philadelphia on the map as a place for “cultivated and well-to-do Negro citizens.” The Committee on Designation got it right. I urge the Commission to do the right thing and add 204 South 12th Street to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Thank you.