Burning Down the House: The Destruction of Pennsylvania Hall, the Construction of Identity, And the Crisis of Abolition in Antebellum Philadelphia

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Burning Down the House: The Destruction of Pennsylvania Hall, the Construction of Identity, And the Crisis of Abolition in Antebellum Philadelphia

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Title: Burning Down the House: The Destruction of Pennsylvania Hall, the Construction of Identity, And the Crisis of Abolition in Antebellum Philadelphia
Author: Hooper, Rosalie
Advisor: Saler, Bethel
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of History
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: In 1838, Pennsylvania Hall was constructed on the corner of Sixth Street and Race Street in Philadelphia. The managers of Pennsylvania Hall, the Pennsylvania Hall Association, intended for the building to serve as a testament to "the principles of Pennsylvania: 'Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.' They believed that Pennsylvania Hall would facilitate free discussion of slavery and other issues "not of an immoral character." Pennsylvania Hall opened to the public on May 14, 1838 with lyceums, abolitionists, and temperance groups scheduled to use the Hall as a forum for dialogue throughout the week. Three days later, a mob burned Pennsylvania Hall to the ground. The destruction of Pennsylvania Hall decisively changed how antebellum Philadelphians thought about slavery and abolition. Philadelphians used retellings of the events of Pennsylvania Hall's destruction to create and perform their own identities, incorporating the notion of slavery as an intrinsic part of their sense of self. Examining how members of the mob that destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, the Pennsylvania Hall Association, the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, and officers of Philadelphia's municipal government used Pennsylvania Hall's story to advance their interests forms the basis of this project. Each group refracted Pennsylvania Hall's story through a lens of their own interests and biases, thus creating many different interpretations of the singular events of the Hall's destruction and establishing their own understandings of the contentious and unstable categories of race, class, gender, and citizenship.. The wide variety of appropriations made of the events of the Hall's destruction reveals the complex and numerous attitudes towards slavery that coexisted in the city. Philadelphians who would become leading decision makers on both the local and national level during the Civil War grew up in Philadelphia under the shadow of the ruins of Pennsylvania Hall. The discourses about Pennsylvania Hall that filled Philadelphia after its destruction were a testimony to the inflammatory nature of questions about who should have a voice in American society and what freedom meant in the Early Republic. The undeniable physical presence of the Hall's ruins extended the building's impact far beyond its four day existence. Pennsylvania Hall's ruins lingered in a central part of the city for at least two years after a mob attacked the building, an untouched reminder of the strong reactions provoked by abolition and slavery in Philadelphia, the Southernmost Northern city in the United States.
Subject: Identity (Philosophical concept) -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia -- History -- 19th century
Subject: Pennsylvania Hall (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Subject: Antislavery movements -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia -- History -- 19th century
Subject: Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century
Terms of Use: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
Permanent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10066/8595

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Hooper, Rosalie. "Burning Down the House: The Destruction of Pennsylvania Hall, the Construction of Identity, And the Crisis of Abolition in Antebellum Philadelphia". 2012. Available electronically from http://hdl.handle.net/10066/8595.

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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/ Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/