Whispering Bells: A Tribute to Crispus Attucks (1976)

by Reginald Beauchamp (1906 - 2000)

Photo Caption: Photo Caitlin Martin © 2014 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Whispering Bells: A Tribute to Crispus Attucks

  • Artist

    Reginald Beauchamp (1906 - 2000)

  • Year

    1976

  • Location

    African American Museum in Philadelphia, northwest corner of 7th and Arch Streets

  • Medium

    Brass, in open tower

  • Dimensions

    Height 20', width 7'6"

  • Themes

    Black and African American Themes and Artists

Commissioned by Philadelphia '76 Inc., a sub-committee of the Afro-American Museum (now African American Museum in Philadelphia)

Owned by the City of Philadelphia

At A Glance

  • A tribute to Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave and the first American to die in the cause of national independence

  • Thirteen “whispering” bells hang in the open tower and represent the original 13 colonies

  • The Evening and Sunday Bulletin subsidized the creation of the piece as a gift to the city for the bicentennial

  • The sculpture was dedicated in 1976 for the opening of the African American Museum in Philadelphia

For many years, Beauchamp worked at the Evening and Sunday Bulletin, which subsidized the creation of the “Whispering Bells” as a gift to the city during the bicentennial celebration

The 13 “whispering” bells hanging in the open tower outside of the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) represent the original 13 colonies. The bells derive from a variety of historical sources: ocean-going vessels, Great Lake steamers, fire engines, and railroad locomotives. Without clappers or hammers, they are “rung” only by the wind, which creates soft echoes of sound.

Whispering Bells sculpture outside of the African American Museum in Philadelphia
Photo Caitiln Martin © 2014 for the Association for Public Art

Designed by Reginald Beauchamp, the work is a tribute to Crispus Attucks, the first American to die in the cause of national independence. Attucks was a runaway slave who worked as a sailor on a whaling ship. On the evening of March 5, 1770, he led a group of workers and protesters to confront a detachment of British soldiers in King Street, Boston. The soldiers opened fire, killing five, including Attucks.

A London native, artist Reginald Beauchamp came to Philadelphia as a child. A self-taught painter, he became a muralist and display designer. For many years, Beauchamp worked at the Evening and Sunday Bulletin, which subsidized the creation of the Whispering Bells as a gift to the city during the bicentennial celebration. Along with John Rhoden’s Nesaika, the sculpture was dedicated in 1976 for the opening of the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

 

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