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Black History Month exhibit at Philadelphia City Hall celebrates untold stories

Philadelphia City Hall celebrates Black history with new exhibit
Philadelphia City Hall celebrates Black history with new exhibit 02:17

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia City Hall is called the "People's Building," and a new Black History Month exhibit highlights some of the people in Philadelphia's history.

Newly installed tiles on the floors of City Hall are an artistic tribute to some of the many untold stories of Black Philadelphians.

The exhibit, called "Philadelphia Black History: The People's Stories," draws inspiration from the 5,000 Black people laid to rest during the 19th century at the rediscovered Bethel Burying Ground in the city's Queen Village neighborhood.

"Philadelphia was where the free Black people lived. So these people were artists, doctors, teachers, educators," Kelly Lee, the executive director of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, said.

She said the Bethel Burial Ground was forgotten for centuries until 2010.

Artists like Natasha Rethke and Duwenavue Johnson spent days researching the lives of those buried at Bethel.

Natasha Rethke's tile at "Philadelphia Black History: The People's Stories"

Rethke's tile tells the story of a 12-year-old girl named Lucretia Blake, who lived near 6th and Lombard Streets and died in 1851.

"Part of the piece shows the burning of her neighborhood," Rethke said. "White supremacists went through and destroyed churches, homes, buildings and she had to witness this."

Johnson's piece features a woman named Sarah Howard.

Duwenavue Johnson's tile at "Philadelphia Black History: The People's Stories"  

"She died peacefully at 47," Johnson said. "She grew up between South 9th and 10th streets on Morrison, which was a Black artisan neighborhood, and she would've been a tailor, a baker or an artist."

READ MORE: Philadelphia City Hall's Harriet Tubman statue receives final approval to start contracting with artist

Lee said the selection committee received 80 art submissions and chose 44 pieces that told diverse stories of Philadelphia's Black history.  

"It's a collection of family members, community members, famous people that impacted who they are and who they became, who they wanted to elevate their stories through art," Lee said.

"Philadelphia Black History: The People's Stories" is on display on the 2nd, 4th and 5th floors of City Hall until April 12.

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