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Home to a leading antebellum African American family and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this property is significant as the home of many abolitionist meetings in Philadelphia. Multiple generations of the Cassey family lived in the home from 1845 until 1929. The Cassey families' contribution to the black freedom struggle continued after the Civil War as the family supported educational and philanthropic organizations that supported the African American community in Philadelphia.

  • Joseph Cassey, one of the leading black abolitionists of the city, acquired this home in 1847.
  • Learn more about the Cassey family and other leading black families with this edited version of Joseph Wilson's survey from Penn State University Press.

Joseph Cassey, the head of household of the Cassey family, moved to Philadelphia from the West Indies around 1808. Joseph had many talents and worked as a barber, perfumer, lender, and a wigmaker before acquiring real estate and acquiring several properties in Philadelphia. Cassey became business partners with another African American abolitionist, Robert Purvis. These men frequently met with white abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Lucretia Mott.

Joseph became a property owner in 1847 and collected rent from seven different families. His wife, Amy Cassey, also became a leading African American abolitionist and persuaded family members to attend and support anti-slavery meetings and organizations. 

The main entrance of the home faced the street, however, there were three small apartments built on to the back of the courtyard. Joseph Cassey accumulated an estimated $75,000 fortune by 1830 and is regarded as being the second wealthiest African American in Philadelphia in these years.

Cassey's support for the education of African American youth was reflected in his serving as a delegate to the first national convention of colored men, which met in Philadelphia in 1831. The convention wanted a college for colored youth to be built in New Haven, Connecticut near Yale University. This proposal was met with much resistance from the residents of New Haven; they claimed that they would” resist the establishment of the proposed college…by every lawful means."

Joseph was upset at these setbacks and continued to support the advancement of black education. In 1839, along with James Forten, and Stephen Smith established a ten-year scholarship for poor African Americans, so they could attend school at eh Oneida Institute in upstate New York, one of the few colleges in the nation that accepted African American children.

Joseph Cassey’s son Alfred, followed his father’s footsteps and was a political activist that also lived in the Cassy House until 1897. Joseph’s granddaughter, Matilda Cassey who was a classical pianist lived in the Cassey House until she died in 1916. Matilda left the home to her cousin Maud Cassey Mosely, who along with her children sold many portions of the property. The family held on to what was left of the home in 1929. The Cassey Home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Joseph Willson, The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000)

The Cassey House.

The Cassey House.