Three Delaware women reflect on local Black History [video]

 Delaware's first African American Congresswoman, Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester speaks to supporters at a reception at the U.S. Capitol in January. (File/WHYY)

Delaware's first African American Congresswoman, Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester speaks to supporters at a reception at the U.S. Capitol in January. (File/WHYY)

In honor of Black History Month, three local women share their stories about making history right here in the First State. They’re all familiar faces and people you can expect to hear more from in the future.

In Wilmington, Velda Jones Potter became the first African-American woman to serve as the Wilmington City Treasurer in 2016.

“As city treasurer it’s great to be the first woman and African American to serve in this role but what’s more important for me is now what am I going to do with that. I have the responsibility to do a great job in that role and to create a pathway for anyone else who wants to come behind and serve,” said Jones-Potter. She was also the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering.

“My motto has always been dream big and make it happen,” Jones Potter added. “It’s really great to be first at something, it creates a sense of personal accomplishment.”

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Also in Delaware’s largest city, history was made last November when Hanifa Shabazz became the first African American woman to serve as Wilmington City Council President.

“More and more every day when certain things happen or a person addresses me a certain type of way or I am able to make a decision I haven’t been used to making as a council member for the past 12 years I realized that, wow this is it, I really am the president of city council,” Shabazz said. I think that the success of tenure as a public servant is because I stopped and listened.”

Then there’s Lisa Blunt Rochester, the first African American Congresswoman to represent the state.

“The day that I was sworn in, the day that I stood in that House chamber and raised my hand and took the oath, that moment is when it really sunk in that we’ve done something really incredible and really special especially for Delaware- having never electing a woman in our state and having never elected a person of color it just all of sudden became very real,” Blunt Rochester said.

However, as Black History month comes to an end, the congresswoman has a challenge for all people.

“Try to find somebody throughout the course of this year that you never heard about like a Hattie Phelan and learn about them. That’s one of the challenges that I put forth to folks is find out about somebody new and also bring somebody else along on that journey,” Blunt Rochester said.

Hattie Phelan was the first African American women to serve on Wilmington City Council in 1967.

Senator Margaret Rose Henry is another first in Delaware. She became the first African American women to serve in the state senate when she was elected in 1994. 

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