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Making Connections

February 15, 2010

A couple of recent Philadelphia newspaper articles prompted today’s UPenn Black History moment. First, there’s this piece on the historic Pyramid Club in Philadelphia, a place for Black professionals to network during the days of rampant segregation. To be a member, “you had to the best at what you did,” according to a Philadelphian interviewed in the feature, reflecting back on the club’s storied past. Hence, Raymond Pace Alexander, yesterday’s UPenn profile, was listed among the notable Pyramidians.

The second feature is about Mother Bethel AME church, founded by Richard Allen 250 years ago yesterday. At Sixth and Lombard, this Philadelphia landmark sits one block away from the Seventh Ward, the focus of W.E.B. Du Bois‘s Philadelphia Negro study. Also interestingly, Sadie Alexander‘s father, Aaron Mossell, served as the superintendent of Mother Bethel’s Sunday School. The most significant connections can perhaps be located in the very presence and possibility of Mother Bethel AME. If Mother Bethel had not been founded as a place of religious freedom and social advancement for the city’s African American population, could the same strides have been made? The Black experience at the University of Pennsylvania – and throughout the city, state, and country – owes much to the activist work of this historic institution.

Brian Peterson
SEAS ’93, GSE ’97

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