‘Segregated Sands’: Delaware Beaches During Jim Crow

-New virtual exhibit from Lewes, Delaware’s Zwaanendael Museum-

 

(DOVER, Del. — Feb. 8, 2022) — The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, Delaware has recently published “Segregated Sands: Delaware’s Segregated Beaches During the Jim Crow Era,” an online exhibit that explores the history and stories of the Indigenous and African American experience at Delaware’s beaches during the segregation era. The exhibit can be accessed by going to the museum’s website at https://history.delaware.gov/zwaanendael-museum/.

 

“Segregated Sands” was created by Zwaanendael Museum staff members and intern Kelli Racine Barnes, a doctoral candidate at the University of Delaware studying late-18th and early-19th-century African American history. Honored by the university as an African American Public Humanities Fellow, Barnes was also named a 2021 E. Lyman Stewart Intern for the summer of 2021. As part of her internship, she conducted most of the research, writing and design of what was to become the “Segregated Sands” exhibit.

Photo of Kelli Racine Barnes
Kelli Racine Barnes

In her Nov. 12, 2021 article, “Beach-going in Delaware: Black perspectives under segregation,” which appeared in the division’s newsletter, Barnes wrote, “By the early-20th century, Delaware government officials systematically repressed Black, Indigenous and other residents of color through state sanctioned laws of segregation which extended to all facets of life including recreation. After the Civil War, the Delaware General Assembly rejected measures of equality enacted by the federal government including Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment. Segregation laws became the norm, determining how Black people engaged with Delaware’s beaches.”

“Segregated Sands” aims to broaden public understanding of how Delaware’s beaches were utilized throughout history in an online format that is easy for the public to view. The exhibit explores 12 beaches, spread across Delaware’s three counties, that were either designated locations for people of color to visit anytime, or places where they were permitted to visit on specifically designated days.

As a companion to the exhibit, the museum is conducting “Recapturing Black Beaches: A Shared Story Project,” an oral history initiative that aims to gather and memorialize the stories of people of color who visited Delaware’s segregated beaches throughout history. Information gathered during the oral history project, as well as a plethora of other research efforts, will be incorporated into the “Segregated Sands” virtual exhibit. For questions or to learn more, contact the Zwaanendael Museum at 302-645-1148 or Zmuseum@delaware.gov.

The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped façade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.

Photo of the Zwaanendael Museum by Cindy Dolan
Zwaanendael Museum. Photo by Cindy Dolan

The Zwaanendael Museum is administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, an agency of the State of Delaware. The division enhances Delaware’s quality of life by preserving the state’s unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history. The division’s diverse array of services includes operation of five museums which are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, administration of the State Historic Preservation Office, conservation of the state’s archaeological and historic-objects collections, operation of a conference center and management of historic properties across the state. Primary funding for division programs and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly and grants from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, a federal agency. However, the contents and opinions expressed in the division’s programs and services do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Department of the Interior.

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Contact:
Jim Yurasek
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
Phone: 302-577-5170
E-mail: Jim.Yurasek@delaware.gov
Web: http://history.delaware.gov


Zwaanendael Museum Seeks Volunteers for “Recapturing Black Beaches,” an Oral History Initiative

(DOVER, Del. — Jan. 14, 2022) — The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Delaware, is seeking volunteers to participate in “Recapturing Black Beaches: A Shared Story Project,” an oral history initiative designed to gather, memorialize and share stories about historically segregated Black and Indigenous beaches in Delaware and the people who visited them. These stories will be used for educational purposes and use will be determined by permissions granted by participants.

Photo of bathers at Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Bathing at Rehoboth, Del. – stamp: 1c Benjamin Franklin, Caley Postcard Collection, Courtesy of Delaware Public Archives

Volunteers may participate as storytellers, sharing their memories about the beaches with oral history project staff, or as interviewers, recording conversations between themselves and someone that they know and care about.

To participate in the project, volunteers should fill out an online form or download a printable version that can be submitted via email or mail. Both forms can be found at the following address on the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs website: https://history.delaware.gov/2021/12/10/recapturing-the-stories-of-black-beaches/. Printed forms should be mailed to the Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes, DE 19958 or sent via email to Zmuseum@delaware.gov.

For questions or to learn more, contact the Zwaanendael Museum at (302) 645-1148 or Zmuseum@delaware.gov.

The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped facade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.

Photo of the Zwaanendael Museum by Cindy Dolan
Zwaanendael Museum. Photo by Cindy Dolan

The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped façade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.


The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is an agency of the State of Delaware. The division enhances Delaware’s quality of life by preserving the state’s unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history. The division’s diverse array of services includes operation of five museums which are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, administration of the State Historic Preservation Office, conservation of the state’s archaeological and historic-objects collections, operation of a conference center and management of historic properties across the state. Primary funding for division programs and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly and grants from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, a federal agency. However, the contents and opinions expressed in the division’s programs and services do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Department of the Interior.

Contact:
Jim Yurasek
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
Phone: 302-577-5170
E-mail: Jim.Yurasek@delaware.gov
Web: http://history.delaware.gov


Guided Visitation To The African Burial Ground At The John Dickinson Plantation

(DOVER, Del. — Aug. 23, 2021) — The John Dickinson Plantation is offering the opportunity to visit the African burial ground and engage with guides about the complex history of the site. The burial ground is believed to be the final resting place for enslaved and free Black men, women and children who died on the plantation. The guided visitations will reflect on the historical context and archaeological research surrounding this significant piece of Delaware’s shared history.

View, from the John Dickinson Plantation’s log’d dwelling, looking across agricultural fields to the location of the African burial ground.
View, from the John Dickinson Plantation’s log’d dwelling, looking across agricultural fields to the location of the African burial ground.

Guided visitations will be available on the following days at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.:

Sept. 17, 21, 24, 25 and 28
Oct. 1, 2, 5, 8, 12, 15, 19, 22, 23, 26 and 29
Nov. 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19 and 20

The 1 ½ hour experience will include an orientation in the visitor center, a tour of the recreated log’d dwelling and a mile round-trip walk to the burial ground, which will include a moment of silence.

Due to limited capacity, reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling 302-739-3277.

For the safety of guests and staff, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs reserves the right to cancel or postpone any event due to due to inclement and/or dangerous weather conditions.

A majority of the activities will take place outdoors. Participants must be prepared for adverse weather conditions and for travel, by foot, over uneven terrain including an unpaved road and an agricultural field. The wearing of appropriate clothing is advised including a hat, closed-toed shoes with good tread such as sneakers or boots, long pants and clothing that accounts for current weather conditions and the presence of insects. Visitors are also advised to bring their own insect repellant and sunscreen.

Photo showing the location of the African burial ground in a field at the John Dickinson Plantation.
Stakes mark the location of the African burial ground in a field at the John Dickinson Plantation.

The burial ground was found on March 9, 2021 on the property of the John Dickinson Plantation located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, Del. Answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the burial ground are available on the John Dickinson Plantation website. Additional information can be found in the podcast, “African Americans on the John Dickinson Plantation.”

These guided visitations are conducted as part of the division’s mission to share the stories of the lives of the Black families who lived, labored and died on the plantation.

Photo of the log'd dwelling at the John Dickinson Plantation
Log’d dwelling at the John Dickinson Plantation. The building is a recreation of the type of housing inhabited by enslaved people at the plantation as well as tenants and indentured servants. The site’s mansion house is in the background.

 

The John Dickinson Plantation is administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, an agency of the State of Delaware. The division enhances Delaware’s quality of life by preserving the state’s unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history. The division’s diverse array of services includes operation of five museums which are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, administration of the State Historic Preservation Office, conservation of the state’s archaeological and historic-objects collections, operation of a conference center and management of historic properties across the state. Primary funding for division programs and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly and grants from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, a federal agency. However, the contents and opinions expressed in the division’s programs and services do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Department of the Interior.

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Contact:
Jim Yurasek
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
Phone: 302-608-5326
E-mail: Jim.Yurasek@delaware.gov
Web: http://history.delaware.gov


Video explores Black life in Delaware 1790–1840

(DOVER, Del. — April 29, 2021) — On April 26, 2021, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs released “A Mere Mock Freedom: Free and Enslaved Black Life in Delaware 1790–1840,” a video presentation by Miles Stanley, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Stanley’s research experience focuses on the history of slavery in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States during the Early Republic (circa 1780–1830). Go to the following link to watch the video on the division’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvpjoyAYfps&ab_channel=DelawareHistory

Screenshot of a historical photo of Delaware
Screenshot from “A Mere Mock Freedom: Free and Enslaved Black Life in Delaware 1790–1840”

“A Mere Mock Freedom” explores anti-slavery activity in Delaware in the late-18th century and the subsequent passage of repressive legislation targeting free Blacks in the 19th century. The presentation takes its name from the writings of U.S. Sen. Thomas Clayton of Delaware (1777–1854) who noted, “Under the wretched and mongrel system of laws which have been enacted in regard to them [free Blacks], they enjoy but a mongrel liberty, a mere mock freedom.”

Due in large part to the passage of laws that criminalized the sale of enslaved Blacks into, and out of, the state in the 1780s and 1790s, the free Black population in Delaware grew nearly four-fold between 1790 and 1840. White pro-slavery Delawareans reacted to this population growth with the passage of legislation that sought to strictly limit the rights of the growing number of free Blacks. These reactionary laws pushed free Blacks to the fringes of society in Delaware, making them targets for kidnapping gangs and other forms of violence.

Screenshot from the Colored American, April 8, 1837
Screenshot from “A Mere Mock Freedom: Free and Enslaved Black Life in Delaware 1790–1840”

The division has been conducting research for many years on the lived experience of Black Delawareans throughout the state’s history. A portion of this research led to the recent archaeological discoveries of an African American burial ground at the John Dickinson Plantation south of Dover and the identification of the remains of the earliest known enslaved people in the state which were found at the Avery’s Rest site outside Rehoboth Beach.

In response to the renewed calls for racial justice that surged across the nation beginning in May 2020, the division issued a statement on race and equity that identified actions that the agency would be taking to practice inclusive history and to tell the stories of all the state’s diverse people. After reading “The Travail of Delaware Slave Families in the Early Republic” by Gary Nash and Miles Stanley, division Director Tim Slavin asked Stanley to create a video presentation on his research.

Commenting on the genesis of “A Mere Mock Freedom,” Stanley noted, “I was fortunate enough to meet the executive director of the Delaware Historical Society, David Young, while I was living in Wilmington and he had worked with one of my mentors, Gary Nash. It really is a small world, I suppose. After I was accepted for the Ph.D., David put me in touch with the HCA [Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs]. They had just started their work on [the African American burial ground at] the John Dickinson Plantation and they needed input on the lived experiences of free and enslaved Blacks during this period. That just so happened to be a big part of my project. After a few meetings … I was asked to produce a recorded presentation that examined a topic related to my research.”

“I hope that we continue to share and discuss these crucial aspects of America’s history,” Stanley added.

Originally from San Diego, Calif., Miles Stanley is a doctoral candidate in history from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He is a historian of slavery in the Mid-Atlantic with a particular focus on free and enslaved Black life in Delaware during the Early Republic period. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh, both in history. In order to get a feel for the history that he was studying, Stanley lived in the Quaker Hill neighborhood of Wilmington, Del. from 2018 to 2019. He and his wife Eva have made their home in Edinburgh since 2020.

Photo of Miles Stanley
Miles Stanley

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is an agency of the State of Delaware. The division enhances Delaware’s quality of life by preserving the state’s unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history. The division’s diverse array of services includes operation of five museums which are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, administration of the State Historic Preservation Office, conservation of the state’s archaeological and historic-objects collections, operation of a conference center and management of historic properties across the state. Primary funding for division programs and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly and grants from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, a federal agency. However, the contents and opinions expressed in the division’s programs and services do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Department of the Interior.

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Contact:
Jim Yurasek
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
Phone: 302-739-7787
E-mail: Jim.Yurasek@delaware.gov
Web: http://history.delaware.gov


Burial Ground Identified At John Dickinson Plantation

(DOVER, Del. — March 23, 2021) — Archaeological research has led to the identification of a burial ground at the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover, Delaware. The burial ground was found during archaeological fieldwork on March 9, 2021 and likely holds the enslaved individuals and other African Americans who lived, worked, and died on land owned by the Dickinson family. “We remain committed to telling inclusive history. This includes restoring dignity to those who have been forgotten. This important discovery presents a powerful moment for every Delawarean,” says Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock.

For two years the Department of State, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has undertaken archaeological investigations on the 450 acres of state property. The work has focused on identifying the burial ground for enslaved individuals that is referenced in primary source documents. “This is sacred ground for Delaware, and we will continue to treat it with the honor and respect it deserves. Our path forward is to protect the site, engage with the community about how to proceed, and continue to learn more through research and dialogue,” says Tim Slavin, Director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

The John Dickinson Plantation is the boyhood home of John Dickinson, a Founding Father of the United States, a framer and signer of the U.S. Constitution. Dickinson wrote eloquently about freedom and liberty while at the same time holding other human beings in bondage.

At the John Dickinson Plantation, a state museum operated by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the goal is to educate the public about the past utilizing the historic, cultural, and natural resources associated with the site.

The Division will continue to undertake additional research to learn more about this burial ground and those interred here and to engage with descendent communities in making important decisions regarding the expansion of the interpretive footprint of this land.

There is no access to this location.

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is an agency of the State of Delaware. The division enhances Delaware’s quality of life by preserving the state’s unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history. The division’s diverse array of services includes operation of five museums, administration of the State Historic Preservation Office, conservation of the state’s archaeological and historic-objects collections, operation of a conference center and management of historic properties across the state. Primary funding for division programs and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly and grants from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, a federal agency. However, the contents and opinions expressed in the division’s programs and services do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Department of the Interior.

For additional information please contact:

Gloria Henry, Site Manager, John Dickinson Plantation, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
302-739-3277 and gloria.henry@delaware.gov

Tim Slavin, Director, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
302-736-7418 and timothy.slavin@delaware.gov

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