Freedom, Faith and Family: Black Migrants and the formation of their West Philadelphia Community

Friday Seminar
Donna Rilling, Stony Brook University
Nov 4, 2022 at - | Rutgers University-Camden,
Multipurpose Room, Campus Center,
326 Penn Street, Camden, NJ

Donna Rilling

Donna Rilling is Associate Professor of History at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where she focuses on the history of the early American republic. She completed her doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania. Her book Making Houses, Crafting Capitalism; Builders in Philadelphia, 1790-1850 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) examined frequently over-leveraged master builders of row houses. A subsequent project on a waterway in nineteenth-century West Philadelphia that was at the heart of political, social, and environment conflict led her to questions of environmental justice and to her current book project, Foreclosed: The Struggles of a Black Community in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia. She has co-authored nominations to Philadelphia’s Register of Historic Sites, including the William and Letitia Still Underground Railroad Way Station, the 1416-32 West Girard Avenue Historic District, and the Smith Whipper Abolitionist houses. She is sole author of the nomination of the African Friends to Harmony Burial Ground, which once served the community she is exploring.

Registration is required for the seminar. Please click on the button below to register.


The McNeil Center sponsors a seminar that meets on Friday afternoons approximately twice a month between September and May, with the paper for each session circulated in advance. Over two hundred people attend at least once a year, with an average attendance of 40 to 50 at meetings held at various sites in the Delaware Valley. While most of the regular attendees are graduate students and faculty from institutions in the Philadelphia area, participants come from as far afield as Long Island, New York City, Princeton, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington. 

The McNeil Center will utilize a hybrid format for seminars in which participants may gather together at the McNeil Center building (or occasionally at an MCEAS Consortium institution host in the Philadelphia area) or attend via Zoom. To get access to the seminar papers and Zoom links, or to join our mailing list, please email us at mceas@sas.upenn.edu.