The City of Philadelphia and the Bethel Burying Ground Historic Site Memorial Committee are commissioning a public art memorial to recognize and celebrate the African Americans buried at the historic Bethel Burying Ground, located beneath Weccacoe Playground in Queen Village.
The City and the Committee selected four public art memorial design concepts to choose from and will review community input on each before selecting the final memorial to be installed at Weccacoe Playground.
Bethel Burying Ground History
The Bethel Burying Ground may be the first independent cemetery for the internment of the African American community. The 5,000+ individuals buried in the Bethel Burying Ground include some of the architects of the black suffrage movement, the desegregation of the city’s transit system, and the organized resistance to the ever-present oppression of African Americans. An estimated 40% of those buried are young children.
The City of Philadelphia bought the land in 1889, with the clear intention to transform it into a park, which was named Weccacoe Square; producing one of the first “small parks” in the country and serving as the first site of the urban farming movement in Philadelphia. Weccaoe Square was built over the remains of the cemetery. By 1950, the square was expanded to a full city block and renamed Weccacoe Playground, which is remains today.
The Friends of the Bethel Burying Ground Coalition was formed in 2013 in response to the rediscovery of the Bethel Burying Ground to educate the public about the Burying Ground, to advocate for its protection and historic designation, and to lobby for the development of a memorial at this historic site. At the behest of the Coalition, the City established the Bethel Burying Ground Historic Site Memorial Committee in 2017.
Team Shawn Theodore Jackson
- Shawn Theodore, Lead Artist
- Miguel Antonio Horn – Lead Fabrication
- Eric Presendanz, Project Assistant
- Will Belcher, PLA, ASLA – DESIGN
- Ian Smith, AIA, NCARB, NOMA – DESIGN
VIEW BETHEL BURYING GROUND PROPOSALS VIDEO
Image: Philadelphia, c 1777. Southwark is the eastern region below the original planned grid of the city. Engraving by Will Faden