Delaware Day video series focuses on slavery

The stories of Delawareans who were enslaved, and of those who helped break the bonds of slavery, will be explored in “Delaware Day 2020: Expanding the Delaware Story,” a series of five videos that will be released beginning Wednesday on the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ webpage at history.delaware.gov/delaware-day-2020.

Produced by the division in collaboration with the Government Information Center, the short videos, of varying lengths, feature community members and employees from the division telling the stories of individuals whose lives are invaluable in understanding Delaware’s complex history, according to a news release.

Each new video in the series will be posted daily at 3 p.m., beginning Wednesday and ending Sunday. In celebration of Delaware Day, a compendium containing all five videos will be posted at 3 p.m. Monday. Access to the videos is free and open to the public.

Delaware Day honors the anniversary of Delaware becoming the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787. Traditionally, the day’s activities have focused on the five Delaware signers of the Constitution — Richard Bassett, Gunning Bedford Jr., Jacob Broom, John Dickinson and George Read.

In 2020, however, the division will expand the Delaware Day narrative by spotlighting the lives of five other people who contributed to Delaware’s colonial and early statehood history and whose stories also deserve to be told and preserved — Dinah, James Summers, Bishop Richard Allen, Warner Mifflin and an unnamed Black male who was one of the first people of African origin to live in Delaware.

In creating these videos, division Director Tim Slavin noted that “we are striving to practice inclusive history and will not shrink from, or ignore the pain of, our shared heritage. We are committed to both preserving and interpreting Delaware’s difficult history.”

The following is information on each of the individuals portrayed in the videos:

Dinah: Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Dinah was a skilled spinner, who was enslaved for over 26 years. She was held in bondage primarily by different men of the Dickinson family. Freed alongside her children in John Dickinson’s 1786 manumission document, Dinah eventually married Peter Patten, a free Black tenant of Mr. Dickinson’s. The latest record of Dinah dates to 1810.

James Summers: Thursday at 3 p.m.
James Summers was born a free Black man in the later part of the 18th century. He married an enslaved woman, meaning his children were enslaved at birth. By 1797, he had worked out an arrangement with the family that held his children in bondage and was able to sign the manumission document setting them free in the Recorder of Deeds Office in the State House (now the Old State House) in Dover.

Bishop Richard Allen: Friday at 3 p.m.
Richard Allen was born enslaved Feb. 14, 1760. When he was 8 years old, he and his family were sold to Stokely Sturgis of Dover. Mr. Sturgis permitted Mr. Allen to attend religious meetings and, later, to purchase his own freedom. Mr. Allen joined the Methodist church and preached in Delaware and adjoining states. He was a founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was established in Philadelphia in 1816. He died March 26, 1831.

Warner Mifflin: Saturday at 3 p.m.
Warner Mifflin was a giant of an 18th-century Quaker abolitionist. He petitioned legislatures. He wrote to congressmen, governors and presidents. His personal beliefs about the ills of slavery led him on a crusade from North Carolina to New England to end the practice. He believed it was a blight on America and that the nation would pay for the sin of slavery if it was not abolished.

Burial No. 9, Unnamed Black Male, Avery’s Rest: Sunday at 3 p.m.
In 2014, archaeologists working at the Avery’s Rest site, west of Rehoboth Beach, excavated 11 human burials. Scientific and DNA analysis determined that three of the individuals were of African origin. Historic context suggests these were Black people enslaved by John Avery. One burial, dated between 1674 and 1714, was that of an unnamed Black male who, at death, was between the ages of 32 and 42.