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Bushfire Theater for the Performing Arts, 52nd and Locust streets

Private Redevelopment in Mantua

In 2014, President Barack Obama designated Mantua and several other poor neighborhoods north of Market Street as the West Philadelphia Promise Zone.

Herman Wrice Mural

Herman Wrice, who founded Mantua Against Drugs (MAD), led a brave 15-year campaign to drive narcotics dealers from Mantua and to shut down their crack houses.

Coca fields of South America, the primary international source of cocaine during the two-decade U.S. crack cocaine epidemic.

Harsh social conditions made Mantua, a high-poverty African American neighborhood, vulnerable to the devastation of the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

Older Mantua Rowhouses

Acceleration of the Great Migration of southern blacks moving north between 1940 and 1950 transformed Mantua from a majority white to a majority black neighborhood, whose population by 1960 was virtually all-African American.

Mantua Street Scene

In the decades after World War II, Mantua was a poor majority-African American neighborhood in West Philadelphia’s northeastern section. In the 1980s, Mantua Against Drugs, a community-organizing campaign led by Mantua’s formidable activist Herman Wrice, worked vigorously and bravely to halt the spread of crack cocaine in this neighborhood.

Hannah Schoff Family

Hannah Kent Schoff, a resident of Powelton for some 60 years, is known for her leadership of the campaign to establish a juvenile court system in Philadelphia; and for her leadership role in establishing the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) as a national organization with state affiliates.

Hannah Schoff Family

Hannah Kent Schoff (seated front), whom the Philadelphia Inquirer called the "'mother' of [the] nation's organized mothers," and her family.

Thomas E. Miller made his mark in history in South Carolina, where he bravely served as a four-time black legislator and one-time representative to the U.S. House between the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. Miller spent at least a decade of his later life in the Powelton neighborhood. 

Black and white portrait photograph of Sadie T.M. Alexander wearing glasses, print jacket, and blouse with large bow.

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was a distinguished Philadelphian and Penn alumna who was the first African American woman in the United States to receive a Ph.D. degree in economics.  West Philadelphia’s splendid Penn Alexander Partnership School is named in her honor.

Since 1987, Anne Whiston Spirn, a renowned landscape historian, first at the University of Pennsylvania, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been actively involved with her students, West Philadelphia community allies, and the Philadelphia Water Department in studying the Mill Creek watershed and helping to develop reclamation and education programs in the Mill Creek neighborhood; her initiative is called the West Philadelphia Landscape Project.

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