Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'Audacious Freedom' Exhibit at African American Museum in Philadelphia Honors Frank B. Johnson

[“Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876”; Exhibition Illustration © Eisterhold Associates Inc.]

“Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876” is the new core exhibit of the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP). Ivan Henderson, Public Programs Coordinator, brought it to our attention with a post in the Guest Book of on July 3, 2009:
“This site is an excellent resource for exposing the public to music history. This has been a huge help in planning for our current core exhibit, which explores the lives of African American in Phila. 1776-1876. From: Philadelphia, PA Web Site: African American Museum in Philadelphia.”
“Founded in 1976 in celebration of the nation's Bicentennial, the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) is the first institution funded and built by a major municipality to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage of African Americans.”

AfriClassical interviewed Ivan Henderson by phone today: “Of course Francis Johnson, of Philadelphia, is sort of the first name that pops up for that time period.” He said also made him aware of other musicians of African descent of the period. “Because once I realized that there was sort of a limited group of musicians or composers in that time period from Philadelphia, I decided to expand it to look at African Americans and Africans in general during that time period, whether they were here in Philly or not. So your website had a lot of that information too.”

Ivan also found information on Francis Johnson at Temple University, and located some of his music at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “I think one of the most important ideas we are trying to get across with this exhibit “Audacious Freedom” is in the title, the audacity of some of the people who lived back then, Africans and African Americans who were not only enslaved, but who fought for their own freedom, some of whom were born free, many of whom became entrepreneurs, very wealthy even by today's standards.” “Showing that Africans and African Americans could 'fit in' to the American plan, we could prosper in all areas."

“I'm really interested in innovation, and I think for young folks who have a problem relating with something that happened two or three hundred years ago, the idea of innovation is something that they can understand. So if I say he was one of the first people to create sound effects as part of a piece – to mimic birds chirping or a train whistle – with instruments, they would understand that as being innovative.”

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