In a bitter cold flecked by the occasional flurry, with a crowd of hundreds shivering - but otherwise seemingly indifferent to the weather - the President's House memorial commemorating the site where George Washington and John Adams conducted their presidencies and where Washington held at least nine Africans in bondage in the 1790s, opened to the public Wednesday.

Mayor Nutter and key historians and activists stood before a granite wall incised with the names of Washington's nine slaves as the official ribbon was cut and an large crowd swarmed into the commorative exhibtion that flanks the Liberty Bell Center on Independence Mall.

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In an eloquent speech, Nutter emphasized the importance of the site and its exhibition, linking them to an emergent public willingness in Philadelphia to discuss the real history of race in America.

"We gather here today at this historic place in Philadelphia not for presidents but rather on behalf of millions of silent voices - the enslaved Africans upon whose backs great wealth was accumulated, both here in the North and in the South," he said. "This place, the 'President's House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation,' is a critical part of the national history, and now it becomes a living story for us to impart to our children . . . and to each other."

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or ssalisbury@phillynews.com