First, I should tell you that I’m the guy who insisted that my wife and I visit a rice plantation turned bed and breakfast. Note that as I bring my latest find.
I read this article on The Root and heard for the first time about the President’s House. The House is the first White House, if you will, across from the Liberty Bell, where our nation’s first two Presidents lived. John Adams moved after two years to DC. George Washington governed from there for eight years but broke up his time in Philadelphia with trips to Mount Vernon–in part to ensure that he could rotate his slaves from place to place and legally prevent their freedom. I want to visit the place for the following reasons.
- The House tells a story that’s easily forgotten. I’ve written on this blog about our country’s convenient amensia, particularly when it comes to the history of Black folks. While it’s a part of the controversial backstory leading to this exhibit, the story of who were slaves and who owned slaves is a critical one to me personally and to our nation corporately.
- Access to history is completely and uniquely open. The exhibit is accessible 24 hours a day. It’s outside, doesn’t require admission or a visit inside hours of operation. There aren’t many places and ways for folks to encounter history this way. Visitors have unrestrained access to video and printed material in order to learn.
- Stories surround the place. Voices surround the place. For those reasons, the budding novelist in me is very interested in putting my feet on the grounds. I’ve visited places that turn up in my yet-to-be-published stories because it, somehow, helps me. It revives my imagination. It connects me to people I can’t see and helps me listen to stories that are powerful and neglected and scary.
- I love the controversy of the House. History is complicated and messy and tricky, and I love the very idea of talking to people about the place. I smile at the idea of finding the nearest street vendor in Philadelphia or the closest spot for tea and starting up a conversation about the President’s House. I want to hear what folks from Philly think of the exhibit, whether they’re excited about it.