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America 250 at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania (then the College of Philadelphia), located In the heart of the city, was at the center of the dramatic events of 1776 and the Revolution that followed. Members of the Penn community were closely linked to the creation of the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents.

Signatures of eight signers of the Declaration of Independence with a connection to the University of Pennsylvania superimposed on an engraving of Benjamin Franklin

Series Overview

The Semiquincentennial (250th anniversary) of the Declaration of Independence, also being referred to across the country as America 250, provides the Penn community with an ideal opportunity to re-examine one of the founding documents of our country from both historical and contemporary perspectives. The Penn Libraries is taking the lead in bringing together colleagues from across campus to begin a conversation about how we might recognize this anniversary through a range of programming, from exhibitions art commissions and performances to innovative courses and conferences, which engages with a number of important ideas raised by the Declaration that continue to resonate in our time.

Working with other institutions across Philadelphia, including the Museum of the American Revolution, the American Philosophical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Library Company of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania seeks to play an instrumental role in exploring multifaceted approaches to recognizing how history can help us better understand the present and create a sustainable and inclusive future.

Upcoming Events

Past Events

Historical map of Philadelphia outlined with a red border
  • Lecture
January 26, 2024

Student Perspectives on the University in the 21st Century

Undergraduates from English Professor Zita Nunes's course Community Writing: Post-COVID University will present their work as part of the America 250 at Penn series, leading up to Penn's 2026 commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.


  • 4:00pm - 6:00pm
  • Kislak Center Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion, 6th Floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
Open to Penn Students, Faculty, and Staff
  • Symposium
March 10, 2023

The Local Archive and the Semiquincentennial: A Forum

This one-day forum is an opportunity for area repositories and historic institutions to learn about each other’s plans to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

  • 10:00am - 3:00pm
  • Virtual or in person: McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 3355 Woodland Walk, Philadelphia, PA
Open to the Public
Dr. Erica Dunbar
  • Lecture
October 25, 2022

Truth Be Told: Black Women and the Making of a Democracy

Erica Armstrong Dunbar (Rutgers University) discusses the central role played by Black women in the founding of the nation and their centuries’ long agitation and activism to force the nation to live up to its promises.

  • 6:00pm - 7:30pm
  • Irvine Auditorium, 3401 Spruce St., University of Pennsylvania
Open to the Public
Image of RBC 818C AM36.2 no. 10 frontispiece-crop-v1.jpg
  • Symposium
March 25, 2022 3:00pm - March 26, 2022 4:00pm @ Hybrid

Teaching Independence: Bridging the Communications Gap

Teaching Independence will consider the challenges of teaching the Declaration of Independence, the history of the American Revolution, and the nation's founding, in the 21st century.

  • McNeil Center for Early American Studies and/or Virtual
Open to the Public

Image above: Detail from engraving of Benjamin Franklin overlaid with the signatures of eight University of Pennsylvania signers of the Declaration of Independence: James Wilson, Francis Hopkinson, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, Robert Morris, George Clymer, William Paca, and Thomas McKean (all from Ms. Coll. 621, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Penn Libraries; image by Chris Lippa.)