I recently toured Cliveden, a historic home located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. For many, Cliveden holds special significance because of the Battle of Germantown. While this was of some interest to me this was not the reason for my tour this particular day. I went to Cliveden to see their exhibit Emancipating Cliveden; Slavery & Servitude. This new exhibit examines the Chew family’s relationship with slavery both at the home and online.
I toured the entire grounds and listened to the tour guide talk about the family through the years. This home offers a great deal of history, and was very important in Colonial Philadelphia through the ’30’s. Much of the home is preserved, and includes many beautiful items registered with the Historical Society. For those who are interested, there is even a huge vintage Luis Vitton Trunk on display that belonged to the family.
Most of the exhibit at Cliveden about slavery and the Chew family is housed in the Carriage House. It was interesting to learn that Richard Allen was born as their slave, before being sold to Samuel Sturgis and buying his freedom.
There was also a fascinating story about a female slave who sued one of the Chews for her freedom, due to the family circumventing the Act of Gradual Abolition. This act protected all freed blacks from future enslavement, unless they were visitors, or only staying in the state 6 months. The Chew family avoided this law by rotating the slaves between states every six months. As a result, the female would be sent to Delaware or Maryland right at the six month mark, then be returned, thus keeping her a slave. To prevent her return to one of these states, she broke her leg, thus preventing her travel and sued for freedom. As of date, no one at Cliveden knows what happened to that particular slave.
So……if you get a chance go check this place out. Students are $8, and they every hour on the hour!