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This 1849 map of New Castle County, Delaware, showing the wider
area near Newark, is from original surveys by Samuel Rea and Jacob Price
and is one of the earliest county wall maps produced in the United
States. Students in the “Race and Inequality in Delaware” class used it
and other maps extensively as primary sources.
As students in the
University of Delaware’s fall 2021 seminar “Race and Inequality in
Delaware” conducted their research into the period before the Civil War,
they quickly learned one thing: The lives and stories of Black
Americans have often been overlooked, minimized or mischaracterized in
official records and historical accounts.
The students think that should change — and they hope their work in
the seminar can serve as a starting point for Delaware and the
“That’s why I wanted to do this [research],” said Kate Uray, a senior
in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and one of the
students who discussed their work in a public presentation on Tuesday,
Dec. 7, in UD’s Morris Library. “Because their stories are hard to find,
but they’re important.”
The seminar included both graduate and undergraduate students from a
variety of disciplines across campus. Led by Dael Norwood, assistant
professor of history, and Laura Helton, assistant professor of English
and history, the students conducted their research using materials from
Special Collections in Morris Library and from University Archives. They
focused on the antebellum period of the 1830s through 1850s, looking
specifically at Delaware College (UD’s predecessor institution), the
town of Newark and other nearby areas.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Examining source materials in Special Collections at Morris
Library for the “Race and Inequality in Delaware” class are (from left)
Anisha Gupta, a doctoral student in preservation studies; Prof. Dael
Norwood; and Tyler Welsh, a senior majoring in history education.
This map of Newark’s New London Road area is from the George G.
Evans family papers at Special Collections in the UD Library. Special
Collections recently digitized it to assist student Anisha Gupta with
her research on the community of Black residents who bought property and
built homes and churches in this west Newark neighborhood.
The seminar was the first in a proposed series of new courses
exploring race and inequality in Delaware and the University’s own
history in the age of enslavement and emancipation. Students conducted
archival research, examining Census and other records, and working
collaboratively with community historians and others.
“This class is about delving deeper,” Norwood said, calling it “part
of a deeper commitment” to expanding knowledge about lesser-known
aspects of our history. “The research by these students will lead to
In introducing the student presentations, titled “Delaware College
and Newark in the Era of Slavery, Indentured Labor and Abolition,”
Norwood and Helton thanked those who provided resources and shared
information. They included Sylvester Woolford Jr., a history and
genealogy lecturer and a commissioner with the Delaware Heritage
Commission; the Partnership for Arts and Culture, part of UD’s Community
Engagement Initiative; the departments of History, English,
Anthropology, Africana Studies and Geography; the University’s
Anti-Racism Initiative; Special Collections at Morris Library; and
The papers of 19th century Newark community leader George
Gillespie Evans are held in 51 volumes in Special Collections and
include a large number of historical business and legal records of the
city of Newark and some of its major institutions.
The class grew out of the UD Anti-Racism Initiative
(UDARI), a grassroots project that was formed in summer 2020 by
faculty, staff and students to address systemic racism throughout the
nation. The initiative, a University-wide effort and commitment,
encompasses numerous topics, including the study of the institution’s
own history. Even before the seminar was offered, students have been
examining the subject through Undergraduate Research and other programs.
Earlier this year, UD joined Universities Studying Slavery, a consortium of more than 80 institutions conducting the same type of research, sharing experiences and best practices.
Students in the fall seminar presented a variety of findings, many
indicating that while Delaware College may not have been explicitly
pro-slavery, the institution did benefit financially from slavery and
other forms of exploited Black labor. Those other forms of unfree labor
included situations in which an enslaver officially “granted”
individuals their freedom but delayed its implementation for long
periods of time, meaning that they remained effectively enslaved for
years afterward. Others may not have been considered property but were
indentured, requiring them to work without pay for a specified number of
This 1851 Delaware College catalog, with an image of Old College
on the cover, is one of many documents in Special Collections that
students in the class used as primary sources for their research.
Delaware College, the students said, received financial support in
various ways from wealthy families, many of them enslavers. They cited
several examples, including:
An 1837 college catalog listed the 28 members of the Board of Trustees; research revealed that 18 of them were enslavers.
Much of the land on which UD now sits was at one time owned by a slave-holding family.
Delaware College received donations and tuition payments over the
years from individuals and families that took part in enslavement or
exploitation of Black labor. A fundraising drive in the 1850s, for
example, found that about 20% of the money that was donated came from
enslavers and 6% from those who used indentured labor.
The students also discussed other findings, including ways in which
Black Delaware College workers (commonly day laborers or cleaners) used
their wages to invest in the surrounding community, renting or buying
land and homes and building churches in the New London Road area of west
Newark. That Black community continued for over a century.
Plans are for the History Department to offer the seminar course,
HIST 460/660: Race and Inequality in Delaware, annually, including
during the 2022-2023 academic year. Other projects that are anticipated
include courses on the global history of racism, community workshops and
other public outreach.
The video of the students’ Dec. 7 talks, which were presented
virtually and recorded, along with questions from the online audience,
is posted on the UD Library website under the Recorded Events heading.
Article by Ann Manser;
Photos by Evan Krape and courtesy of UD Special Collections and University Archives and Stanford University
Published January 11, 2022