Delaware’s new center displays the African American experience [video]

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

While tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture In Washington, D.C. are hard to come by – there’s a place with the same kind of history right in Wilmington thanks to the Delaware Historical Society.

The Center for African American Heritage in Wilmington takes visitors on a “Journey to Freedom” through the lives of African Americans in Delaware.

“Delaware is a small state but we have a rich history here,” said Connie Cooper of the Delaware Historical Society.

Cooper is one of many who came together to work on several exhibits designed to tell Delaware’s story. She focused on the exhibit “Discover Delaware” that takes visitors through six different themes that illustrate the state’s history.

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“When you read books about American history in terms of general American history, often the Delaware story is not included, yet Delaware’s history is rich, it’s fascinating, there’s all sorts of interesting people, interesting stories,” Cooper said.

Many of those interesting stories are brought to life by Cheryl Gooch in the “Journey to Freedom” exhibit, which chronicles 377 years of the African American experience in Delaware from 1639 to now.

“This is not a new story, but this is something that is often overlooked. It was here in Wilmington that the Bulah and Belton cases had a very significant impact on the landmark decision Brown versus  Board of Education that led to the ending of legal segregation in public schools in the United States,” Gooch said.

In addition to the role Delaware played in education, guests will also stumble upon some powerful images such as the symbol of the kneeling African in the middle of the Declaration of Independence.

“It’s intended to provoke questions, encourage more discussion and hopefully discovery so that we will cultivate people’s desire- young and old- to learn and relearn in some cases,” Gooch said.

“As much as there is in the exhibitions here, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of Delaware history. There’s so much to learn, so much to experience, so much to think about,” Cooper said.

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