The Greater Philadelphia Roundtable Launches “Phrasing Philadelphia”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Year-long series of events and essays explores the slogans that define the city

Phrases such as “City of Brotherly Love” and “Workshop of the World” have helped to make Philadelphia famous. But where did these slogans come from, and what do they mean for Philadelphians today?

This topic will be explored over the next year through “Phrasing Philadelphia” – a series of lectures, discussions, and essays presented by the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable. The effort will help shape the content of the planned Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. The Encyclopedia—in its digital and print volume—will be the most comprehensive, authoritative reference source ever created for the Philadelphia region.

“Phrasing Philadelphia” will feature 10 events with distinguished panels of writers, scholars, and civic leaders from March 2011 through March 2012. The events occur in different locations all over the city. They are all free, open to the public, and begin at 6:30 p.m. The first event, titled “City of Brotherly Love,” will take place on Wednesday, March 23, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

On the Sunday preceding each event, a related essay will appear in the Currents section of the Philadelphia Inquirer, followed by a posting on the Encyclopedia website and at WHYY.Teachers who attend the programs may receive Act 48 credit. For more information about the programs or to register, visit

The Greater Philadelphia Roundtable encourages discussion of Philadelphia history and issues and builds public participation in the project to create an Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. “Phrasing Philadelphia” focuses on civic identity, including its significance in community life and economic development.  Essays and discussions will be rooted in the historical origins of the key descriptive phrases but also will move deeply and creatively to probe the ideas at the heart of civic identity, including the contradictions, ironies, and silences that such slogans may mask.  What meanings do these associations have for civic life today?  Do they unite or divide us?  Do they provide bridges between the past, present, and future?

The Greater Philadelphia Roundtable is a partnership of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Series co-sponsors include: Young Involved Philadelphia; The Friends of Independence; WHYY; Philadelphia Media Network; Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation; Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent; City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program; Neighborhood Interfaith Network; and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.

“Phrasing Philadelphia” was funded in part by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ We the People initiative in American history.

“Phrasing Philadelphia” will run from March 2011 through March 2012. Below is a list of the events:

City of Brotherly Love

Wednesday, March 23, 2011           

Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St.

Featured essayist and panelist:  Chris Satullo, WHYY

William Penn envisioned Philadelphia as a “City of Brotherly Love.” How have such ideals of tolerance, together with intolerance, shaped the city and region?  How do we build and sustain community?  This panel will be moderated by Jean Soderlund of Lehigh University with panelists including Chris Satullo of WHYY; Stephen Glassman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission; and Kali Gross of Drexel University.  Program co-sponsors include the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, WHYY, and Africana Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University.

Holy Experiment

Thursday, April 14, 2011    

Friends Center, 1501 Cherry St.

Featured essayist and panelist: Emma Lapsansky-Werner, Haverford College

A Quaker, William Penn intended Pennsylvania as a “Holy Experiment” dedicated to tolerance for all religious practices. In this discussion, we focus on religion and faith communities, from the colonial era to the present. The panel will be moderated by Randall Miller of St. Joseph’s University with panelists including Emma Lapsansky-Werner of Haverford College; Maris Gillette of Haverford College (and the Muslim Voices project); Rabbi George Stern of the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement; and Tuomi Forrest of Partners for Sacred Places. Program co-sponsors include the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement and Partners for Sacred Places.

Green Country Town

Tuesday, May 10, 2011                    

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 100 N. 20th St.

Featured essayist and panelist: Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer

William Penn envisioned Philadelphia as a “green country town” with large, spacious lots stretching from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill. From this foundation, how did the city evolve and how have public spaces shaped our history? The panel will be moderated by Drew Becher of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society with panelists including Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Eugenie Birch of the University of Pennsylvania, and Pete Hoskins of Laurel Hill Cemetery.  Program co-sponsors include the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Cradle of Liberty

Thursday, June 23, 2011     

National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St.

Featured essayist and panelist: Gary Nash, UCLA

Philadelphia gained fame for its role in the American Revolution. How have Philadelphians continued to pursue freedom and social justice, and what legacy does this create for the future?  This panel will be moderated by Richard Beeman of the University of Pennsylvania with panelists including Gary Nash of UCLA; Michael Coard of Avenging the Ancestors Coalition; and Richard Newman of the Rochester Institute of Technology.  Program co-sponsors include the National Constitution Center, the Friends of Independence, and Avenging the Ancestors Coalition.

Athens of America

Friday, September 16, 2011

Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Featured essayist and panelist:  Alexandra Kirtley, Philadelphia Museum of Art

“Athens of America” and “Athens of the Western World” emerged in the early 1800s as references to Philadelphia’s dominance in arts and culture. This discussion focuses on Philadelphia as a cultural center, especially in the visual arts.  This panel will be moderated by Kim Sajet of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with panelists including Alexandra Kirtley of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Carmen Febo San Miguel of Taller Puertorriqueno, and David Brownlee of the University of Pennsylvania. Program co-sponsors include the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Taller Puertorriqueno.

Workshop of the World

Wednesday, October 19, 2011         

Tacony Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia, 6742 Torresdale Avenue

Featured essayist and panelist: Walter Licht, University of Pennsylvania

Industry helped Philadelphia to gain a national and international reputation.  What were the lasting consequences of the rise and later decline of industry for workers, communities, and the local economy?  Where is Philadelphia’s economic strength today?  This panel will be moderated by Philip Scranton of Rutgers-Camden with panelists including Walter Licht of the University of Pennsylvania, Daniel Sidorick of Temple University, and Carla Bednar of the Fabric of Philadelphia Initiative. Program co-sponsors include the Historical Society of Tacony, the Tacony Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Fabric of Philadelphia Initiative. 

Corrupt and Contented

Tuesday, November 15, 2011          

Philadelphia Media Network Headquarters, 400 N. Broad St.

Featured essayist and panelist:  Paul Davies, Philadelphia Inquirer

In The Shame of the Cities (1904), journalist Lincoln Steffens famously dubbed Philadelphia “corrupt and contented.” How and why did Philadelphia gain this reputation, and how have scandals come to light? This program will be moderated by Zack Stalberg of the Committee of Seventy with panelists including Paul Davies of the Philadelphia Inquirer and David Thornburgh of the Fels Institute of Government. Philadelphia Media Network is pleased to host this program at its headquarters with co-sponsors including the Fels Institute of Government.

City of Firsts

January 2012, date to be announced, Franklin Institute

Featured essayist and panelist: Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphians have claimed the title “City of Firsts” for achievements such as the first hospital in America and the first municipal water system. This discussion focuses on innovation, especially in science and technology.  Moderated by Babak Ashrafi of the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science with panelists including Michael Zuckerman of the University of Pennsylvania; Keith Thomson, professor emeritus of natural history at the University of Oxford, senior research fellow at the American Philosophical Society, and former director of the Academy of Natural Sciences; Steven Peitzman of the Drexel University College of Medicine; and Grover Silcox of WLVT PBS39. Program co-sponsors include the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science, the Franklin Institute, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Philadelphia, the Place that Loves You Back

Wednesday, February 22, 2012      

Independence Visitor Center

Featured essayist and panelist: Richardson Dilworth, Drexel University

Tourism has become increasingly important to Greater Philadelphia’s economy, generating in one year 36 million visitors and $8 billion in economic impact, while supporting 83,000 jobs. In this discussion, take a look behind the campaigns that promote Philadelphia to the region, the nation, and the world.  The discussion will be moderated by Charlene Mires of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers-Camden with panelists including Richardson Dilworth of Drexel University, Meryl Levitz of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, and Bob Skiba of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides.  Program co-sponsors include the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.

City of Neighborhoods, City of Homes

Wednesday, March 28, 2012                       

Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

Featured essayist and panelist: Linn Washington, Temple University

Philadelphia’s strong tradition of neighborhood distinctiveness has lasting power and deep roots.  In this culmination of the series, we look at the foundations of community experience. How do neighborhood ties unite and sometimes divide us? Across neighborhood boundaries, how do we form the common bonds of civic life?  This panel will be moderated by Carolyn Adams of Temple University with panelists including Linn Washington of Temple University, Domenic Vitiello of the University of Pennsylvania, Thoai Nguyen of SEAMAAC, and Louis Massiah of Scribe Video. Program co-sponsors include the Philadelphia History Museum and SEAMAAC.