Cliveden Conversations

Join Cliveden for thought-provoking discussion.

reconstructing black families

Reconstructing Black Families: Stories from the Chew Papers

Wednesday, April 18, 2023 | 6:30 pm in-person & on Zoom

Spread throughout the 288.5 linear feet of the Chew Family Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is the evidence of the lives of early American families of African descent, both free and enslaved. Recent digitization work and research by the African American Genealogy Group (AAGG) has started to re-create family groups from the Mid-Atlantic region. Hear from members of AAGG on their findings and learn from Cliveden staff about the impact this work has on the interpretation at a local historic site.

The first hour will be a presentation, available both in person at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and on Zoom. A hands-on workshop to view recently digitized materials after the presentation will be available from 7:30pm to 8:30pm.

Registration for Reconstructing Black Families is available via Eventbrite and is free. 

Program Speakers

Adrienne G. Whaley, African American Genealogy Group

Adrienne G. Whaley is an educator and history-lover who currently serves as Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Museum of the American Revolution and Programming Chair of Philadelphia’s African American Genealogy Group. Adrienne earned her Bachelor's degree in African American Studies from Harvard University and her Master's in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in both art and history museums, and carries her love of history and for uncovering the stories of common people into her spare time as an avid genealogist. As both a museum educator and as a genealogist, she has presented on television and in workshops and conferences both locally and nationally. She is a 2022 recipient of the Paul Edward Sluby Meritorious Achievement Award from the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.


Carolyn Wallace, Cliveden of the National Trust

Carolyn Wallace received a BA in History and Art History from Ursinus College and a MA in American Fine and Decorative Arts from Sotheby's Institute of Art in New York. After a short time as a Cataloguer for Samuel T. Freeman & Co, she spent 4 years working with sites in Historic Germantown, including as a guide for the award-winning History Hunters Youth Reporter Program, and Program Coordinator for Historic Germantown, the consortium of 18 historic sites in Northwest Philadelphia. Carolyn started at Cliveden in 2012 as the Museum Coordinator. As Education Director, she is focused on research and interpretation of diverse narratives, collections management and programming for youth and adults.

Project Participants

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Built as a country house for attorney Benjamin Chew, Cliveden was completed in 1767 and was home to seven generations of the Chew family. Cliveden has long been famous as the site of the American Revolutionary War Battle of Germantown in 1777, as well as for its Georgian architecture. New research is unearthing a more complicated history at Cliveden, which involves layers of significance, including the lives of those who were enslaved and in service to the Chew family. This information broadens the meaning of Cliveden as a preserved historic place, exploring themes and stories of American identity and freedom. Traces of the history of the Cliveden property and its occupants can be found throughout the five acre woody landscape.   

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The African American Genealogy Group was founded in January 1989 in response to the ever-increasing number of people who expressed a desire to research their family “roots.” Our mission is to educate, provide resources, and create a community for anyone interested in African American family history and genealogical research. Based in Philadelphia, PA and with a membership largely from the Tri-State region, we serve those who are interested in researching their family history locally, regionally, and nationally.

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The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, founded in 1824, is one of the nation’s largest archives of historical documents. We are proud to serve as Philadelphia’s Library of American History, with over 21 million manuscripts, books, and graphic images encompassing centuries of US history. Through educator workshops, research opportunities, public programs, and lectures throughout the year, we strive to make history relevant and exhilarating to all. For more information, visit


This project was funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Interpretation and Education Endowed Fund that was made possible by a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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