The 300th Anniversary
of the Germantown Protest
Back in 1987 I led a two-year community organizing project in Germantown, Philadelphia, where I lived. We joined together to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the Germantown Protest against Slavery — the first European abolition protest in the New World. The community celebrated this historic event with the goal of promoting community development in the impoverished neighborhood where the 1688 protest occurred. The coalition united around the slogans:
1) Protest Injustice – Then and Now,
2) Build Community,
3) Take Responsibility, and
4) Revitalize our Neighborhood.
The four themes of the Anniversary Commemoration proved to be a dynamic vehicle for community organizing in Germantown, uniting numerous organizations and individuals. The organizing process began in December 1986.
A great diversity of projects was organized by the 300th Anniversary Committee. Partly because of these efforts, others were also inspired to organize special historical exhibitions, lectures series, and even an original theater production. The 300th Anniversary Committee served as the central clearinghouse for all of these events, including promotion and publicity for all the programs.
The 300th Anniversary Committee was directly responsible for organizing the following projects:
• A Youth Art and Essay Contest;
• A four day Youth Leadership Training program for 75 area teenagers;
• A parade and rally in Germantown;
• A Youth Choir Concert; and
• An Interfaith Service on the theme “Freedom from Addiction.”
The effort helped to stimulate a $12 million redevelopment effort known today as Freedom Square, which hosts retail space and subsidized housing for the elderly.