Activist scholar documents, and helps defend, West Philadelphia neighborhood
Patrick Grossi wields an unusual tool to help solve social problems: history.
The 33-year-old doctoral student of Temple University’s History program specializes in what he calls Public History, explaining that it goes beyond the “walls of academia.”
His interest in history led him to one of West Philadelphia’s most hotly contested neighborhoods: Mantua, in West Philadelphia. Grossi has studied the neighborhood’s history, from its beginnings as what he describes as a “speculative real estate venture, a peripheral suburb almost,” in the mid-19th century, to its importance as one of Philadelphia’s predominantly black neighborhoods nearly a century later.
What happens next, he says, still resonates with Mantuans today.
“Longtime residents have a memory of what happened in the 1960s, when all three major universities were orchestrating expansion projects,” Grossi says. “UPenn gets the most heat because they did displace a lot of residents from the Black Bottom neighborhood, where University City is now.”