Displaying Delaware’s African American history [video]

 Samuel Burris, a free black man and conductor of the Underground Railroad, was caught helping a slave escape Delaware in 1847. He was pardoned last year by Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware. (photo courtesy Delaware.gov)

Samuel Burris, a free black man and conductor of the Underground Railroad, was caught helping a slave escape Delaware in 1847. He was pardoned last year by Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware. (photo courtesy Delaware.gov)

The contributions of Delaware’s African American community will soon take center stage.

This summer, the Delaware Historical Society will open the doors to its new Center for African-American Heritage in downtown Wilmington.

The center, which has been in the making for several years, was made possible thanks in part to a grant by the city of Wilmington and other contributions. Despite some early hurdles, the Delaware Historical Society and African American community leaders worked together to push this project forward.

The exhibit’s two main themes, Slavery in Delaware & The Struggle for Freedom and Beyond Bondage – Breaking Down Barriers, will shed light on the vast contributions of blacks in the First State. “This exhibit covers more than 300 years of our shared history in Delaware involving the African American experience,” said Delaware Historical Society researcher Dr. Cheryl Gooch.

Researcher Dr. Constance Cooper says the Historical Society has been collecting and researching the contributions of Delaware’s African Americans for more than 150 years. The organization is thrilled to finally be able to present items from its collection. “One of the real goose bump items that we have is a silver tray that was presented to Thomas Garret in 1866. Thomas Garret was the stationmaster of Delaware’s participation in the Underground Railroad.” The exhibit will also include items from private collectors.

The Historical Society hopes the new Center for African American Heritage will bring about a better understanding and appreciation of the impact African Americans have made on the state, the country and the world.

The Center for African American Heritage will be located at 505 North Market Street in Wilmington.

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