As the first state of the modern United States, Delaware is rich in history. If you’re a parent looking to introduce your kids to local history and instill some Delaware pride, we highly recommend a visit to the Delaware History Museum and the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage. Both of these museums are housed in the same building. They both feature permanent and rotating exhibitions, classrooms, and meeting spaces. Some reasons why our Delaware adoption professionals recommend a family trip here include:
Delaware History Museum
The Delaware History Museum has been around since 1940, telling stories of some of the state’s most important historical figures for generations. Right now, the museum is hosting an exhibit called “Delaware: One State, Many Stories.” In this exhibit, visitors learn about Delaware history through a variety of important topics, including:
- Immigrant history
- Maritime history
- Agricultural roots
- Wilmington’s transformation from an industrial center to a financial hub
- Waterfront history
- Cultural and artistic movements in Delaware
The exhibit examines how Delaware is many things at once, some of them contradictory. For example, Delaware is in a sense both northern and southern, agricultural and industrial, rural and urban – and in the past, both a slave state and an important stop on the underground railroad. How have these complexities shaped the state to become what it is today?
Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage
Jane and Littleton Mitchell both played important roles during the Civil Rights era in Delaware. Jane was one of Delaware’s first African-American nurses, while Littleton served as a Tuskegee Airmen instructor during World War II. Both husband and wife were members of the Delaware NAACP, and Mr. Mitchell served as president of the organization for thirty years. This museum explores African-American heritage in Delaware and is named in honor of these two historical figures.
Exhibitions currently running at the Mitchell Center include:
Journey to Freedom
This exhibition explores African-American history in Delaware by taking visitors on a journey through ten sections, beginning with Delaware’s first documented black resident – an enslaved African named Antoni Swart who was brought to the state as a slave from the West Indies in 1639. The exhibit also honors a number of prominent African-American Delawareans, such as Reverend Peter Spencer and Louis L. Redding.
Voices of the Elders
This exhibit is an oral history series which features interviews with six important African-American community leaders in Delaware:
- James H. Gilliam, Sr.
- Dr. Joseph E. Johnson
- The Rev. Canon Lloyd S. Casson
- Dr. Lozelle DeLuz
- Mayor George Wright, Jr.
- Esthelda Parker-Selby
The Mitchell Center houses a collection of papers from prominent Delaware psychologist and civil rights activist Dr. Eugene McGowan. Dr. McGowan was Delaware’s first African-American school psychologist. He donated his papers to the Delaware Historical Society in 2014.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter
The Mitchell Center is also home to a 1965 letter signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which was also donated by Dr. McGowan. Dr. King wrote this letter to Dr. McGowan, thanking McGowan for inviting him to speak in New Castle, Delaware.