Given the unruliness of time machines, apt to choose their own destinations, you’ll need a bike, car or SEPTA to see the scattered sites where enslaved Black women helped to get colonial Philadelphia going.
Take Black Alice, aka Alice of Dunks Ferry, who reached age 116, c.1686 to 1802, historians say. Her parents, from Barbados, arrived here in 1684 on the Isabella, the ﬁrst slave ship to reach Philadelphia. By age 5, Alice began serving drinks and oysters in a tavern and lighting pipes for its patrons, according to Susan Klepp, a retired Temple University history professor. Legend has it that when Alice lit a pipe for William Penn (1644–1718), he tipped her one pence, about 75 cents into today’s money.
Years later, Alice’s master apparently moved her 17 miles upriver to what became Bensalem, where she eventually operated a kind of ferry called a horse boat. A strong, savvy woman by all accounts, she calmed skittish horses, handled rowdy passengers and collected tolls for 40 years. Alice never gained her freedom, but she may have used the ferry to help fugitives escape. She never fled herself, maybe because she had at least one child in Dunks Ferry, Dr. Klepp says. Alice rode to Philadelphia to attend Christ Church on Sundays, and she became an esteemed oral historian and storyteller who recalled Philadelphia as a tree-filled outpost of bobcats.Read More