Studying slavery | UDaily
This 1849 map of New Castle County, Delaware, showing the wider area near Newark, is from the original surveys of Samuel Rea and Jacob Price and is one of the first 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.
Photos by Evan Krape and courtesy of UD Special Collections and University Archives and Stanford University
January 11, 2022
Students present research conducted on the history of Delaware College
As students in the University of Delaware’s 2021 “Race and Inequality in Delaware” fall seminar conducted their research on the pre-Civil War era, they quickly learned one thing: the lives and histories of Black Americans have often been overlooked, downplayed or misinterpreted in official documents 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 University.
“That’s why I wanted to do this [research]said Kate Uray, a senior at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and one of the students who discussed their work during a public presentation Tuesday, Dec. 7, at UD’s Morris Library. . “Because their stories are hard to find, but they are important.”
The seminar included graduate and undergraduate students from various 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 material from the Morris Library Special Collections and University Archives. They focused on the antebellum period from the 1830s to the 1850s, looking specifically at Delaware College (the institution that predated UD), the city of Newark, and other nearby areas.
Reviewing source documents in the Morris Library Special Collections for the class “Race and Inequality in Delaware” are (left to right) Anisha Gupta, doctoral student in preservation studies; Professor Dael Norwood; and Tyler Welsh, a senior who specializes in teaching history.
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 era of slavery and emancipation. Students researched archives, reviewed census and other records, and worked collaboratively with community historians and others.
“This course is about digging in,” Norwood said, calling it “part of a deeper engagement” to expand knowledge about lesser-known aspects of our history. “The search for these students will lead to further research.”
This map of the New London Road area in Newark is from the George G. Evans family papers in the UD Library Special Collections. Special Collections recently digitized it to help student Anisha Gupta research the community of black residents who bought property and built homes and churches in this west Newark neighborhood.
In presenting the student presentations, titled “Delaware College and Newark in the Age of Slavery, Indentured Labor and Abolition,” Norwood and Helton thanked those who provided resources and shared information. Among them were Sylvester Woolford Jr., professor of history and genealogy and commissioner of the Delaware Heritage Commission; the Arts and Culture Partnership, part of UD’s Community Engagement Initiative; the departments of History, English, Anthropology, African Studies and Geography; the University’s Anti-Racism Initiative; Special Collections at the Morris Library; and University Archives.
The class grew out of the UD Anti-Racism Initiative (UDARI), a grassroots project that was formed in the summer of 2020 by faculty, staff, and students to fight systemic racism nationwide. The initiative, a University-wide effort and commitment, encompasses many topics, including the study of the institution’s own history. Even before the seminar was offered, students were examining the subject in undergraduate research programs and other programs.
The papers of 19th-century Newark community leader George Gillespie Evans are housed 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.
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.
Fall seminar students presented a variety of findings, with many indicating that while Delaware College may not have been explicitly pro-slavery, the institution benefited financially from slavery and other forms of black labor exploited. These other forms of unfree labor included situations in which a slaveholder formally “granted” individuals their freedom but delayed its implementation for long periods of time, meaning they effectively remained enslaved for years. Others may not have been considered property, but were under contract, requiring them to work without pay for a number of years.
This 1851 catalog of Delaware College, with an image of Old College on the cover, is one of many special collections documents 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 whom were slaveholders. They cited several examples, including:
A university catalog from 1837 lists the 28 members of the board of trustees; research revealed that 18 of them were slavers.
Much of the land UD now sits on was once owned by a slave family.
Delaware College has received donations and tuition over the years from individuals and families who participated in slavery or black labor exploitation. A fundraising campaign in the 1850s, for example, found that about 20% of the money donated came from slavers and 6% from those using indentured labor.
Students also discussed other findings, including how Black Delaware College workers (usually day laborers or cleaners) used their pay to invest in the surrounding community, renting or buying land and houses and building churches in the New London Road area of western Newark. . This black community has endured for more than a century.
The History Department is expected to offer the seminar course, HIST 460/660: Race and Inequality in Delaware, each year, including during the 2022-2023 academic year. Other planned projects include courses on the global history of racism, community workshops and other public awareness activities.
Video of the December 7 student lectures, which were presented virtually and recorded, along with online audience questions, is posted on the UD Library website under Recorded Events.