Mummery has been a Philadelphia tradition dating back to the 17th century, drawing from customs brought by the many groups making their home here. Since 1901, the Mummer’s Parade has been an official city event, drawing Philadelphians of all backgrounds in celebration, while also provoking controversy.
The mummer tradition is sustained by several dozen independent volunteer-led organizations, some focused on dance, on music, or on costuming, satirical skits, or merrymaking. This tradition of brightly colored merrymaking has over its history been accompanied by exclusionary and inflammatory behavior, as well as by efforts to address and remedy this behavior.
The first all-Black mummers club performed in 1866 and recent years have seen a more inclusive parade that includes Afro-Caribbean and Mexican participants. Many are concerned about the future of this tradition and wonder if it’s possible to make mummery a celebration that all Philadelphians can be proud of.
Join WHYY as we explore the past, present and future of the mummer tradition on February 27th at the Independence Library at 7th and Market Streets.
Eric Marsh, Sr., Community & Engagement Manager at WHYY
Bobbi Booker, Managing Editor Plan Philly
Bridging Blocks, a partnership between The Free Library of Philadelphia and WHYY, is made possible by a generous grant from Fred and Barbara Sutherland.