BLACK WOMEN IN DELAWARE'S HISTORY
University of Delaware
Historical Society of Delaware
In 1740, a ship bearing African people who had been sold into slavery docked at New Castle, Delaware. Among the frightened Africans who huddled together and were held in place by iron shackles was an 18 year old girl. Like the others on board, she knew no English, and we have no record of her African name. In America, she was called Betty. Betty was one of hundreds of Africans who were transported to America in the 1600s and 1700s to become slave laborers in the little colony then known as the "Three Lower Counties of Delaware."
Betty was probably sold to a farmer who set her to work with a hoe, a farm tool widely used in both America and West Africa. Betty and other African-born people plowed, weeded, and harvested crops for their master. She may have lived in a small log cabin, in a barn, or in the attic or cellar of her master's house. Little by little, Betty learned English from hearing her master and his family talk and by listening to other African people who had lived in America for a longer time. Aside from the record of her sale, we know nothing about Betty's life in Delaware. She may have borne children whose descendants are living in the United States today.
The story of Betty demonstrates our difficulty in recapturing the lives of Delaware's first women of African heritage. The records of their hard-pressed lives are scarce. We know of no African women in Delaware until the 1650s when the colony was ruled by the Dutch. We know that in 1664, just before the English captured the colony, the Dutch sent 38 African men and 34 African women to Delaware. This is an important piece of information because it shows that the Dutch were not just sending African men to the colony to do heavy work but were also sending women. The women could do both farm and household labor and become the mothers of the next generation of slaves.
During the years from 1700 until the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, many slave families were formed in Delaware, but the white people who ran the colony did not recognize legal marriages among their slaves. Slave couples were often owned by different masters and visited with one another infrequently. It was difficult to sustain family life under these conditions, yet many slaves managed to do so because kinship was the primary tie that bound people together in African societies as well as in those of the whites. The law against black men having sex with white women was very severe, but no punishment for white men who forced black women to have sex with them existed. All children of female slaves were enslaved like their mothers, regardless of the race or status of their fathers.
Young black girls learned to work in the fields alongside other slaves. Often, they performed the dangerous job of cleaning dirt and weeds from the tip of the plow as it moved through the ground. Slave girls also learned household chores such as spinning flax into linen thread, weaving, making clothing, cooking, and caring for babies and sick people. The names of some of Delaware's slave women have come down to us through legal records such as wills or deeds of sale. In addition to Betty, other common slave names were English names such as Maria, Grace, and Rebecca as well as names that recall African languages such as Serena, Jints, Ummi, and Hara.
In 1776, Delaware declared its independence from England and adopted a new state constitution that banned the importation of more slaves into the state. A few years later, the Delaware legislature passed a law that banned the sale of Delaware slaves outside the state. These laws did nothing to end slavery, but they did halt its growth and stopped the importation of more Africans into Delaware. The ringing endorsement of liberty and equality in the Declaration of Independence, together with the religious beliefs of the Quakers and Methodists, led some masters to free their slaves. By the 1790s, Delaware had two classifications of people of African descent: slaves and free blacks. Slaves continued to live at the whim of their masters. In 1781, a woman named Sabrina was publicly whipped to death by her master at Wilmington's Christiana Bridge. The master was charged with manslaughter but was acquitted. Incidents like this one turned some thoughtful white people against slavery. Although manumissions continued, some whites stubbornly defended the "peculiar institution."
Among the growing number of free blacks, most women were employed as household servants or washer women and received low wages. Yet, despite these heavy burdens, a few free black women emerged from poverty to achieve education and success. Betty Jackson, a black woman from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, established a tea room on French Street in Wilmington, Delaware, where she sold cakes, fruit, and desserts to wealthy people for their parties. Her son, Jeremiah Shadd, was a butcher, well-known for his ability to cure meat. His wife, known as Aunt Sallie Shadd, achieved legendary status among Wilmington's free black population as the inventor of ice cream. The story was that the butcher Jeremiah purchased Sallie's freedom. Like other members of her family, she went into the catering business and created a new dessert sensation made from frozen cream, sugar, and fruit. Dolly Madison, the wife of President James Madison, heard about the new dessert, came to Wilmington to try it, and afterward made ice cream a feature of dinners at the White House.
Whether the Aunt Sallie Shadd story is true or only a pleasant legend, it is an undisputable fact that Mary Ann Shadd, a later descendant of the Shadd family, who was born in Wilmington in 1823, became an important teacher, newspaper publisher, and crusader for the abolition of slavery. She was probably the first black woman in America to publish her own newspaper. The daughter of Abraham Shadd, a free shoemaker and abolitionist leader, Mary Ann attended a school in Wilmington which had been founded in 1816 by the city's Quakers to educate free blacks. After completing her education at a boarding school in West Chester, Pennsylvania, she returned to Wilmington to teach in the Quaker school for blacks. She later taught black students at schools in Pennsylvania and New York state. She wrote a book entitled, Hints To The Colored People of the North, in which she urged black people to transcend the legal impediments and racial prejudice that held them in poverty through hard work and thrift. She also warned her readers against imitating white peoples' conspicuous consumption of luxury goods. In 1850, when the federal government adopted the infamous Fugitive Slave Law, Mary Ann Shadd went to Canada where she established an abolitionist newspaper called the Provincial Freeman. After the Civil War, when she was 60 years old, she earned a law degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and set up a law practice to assist black people to receive their rights.
By 1840 only, 13 percent of Delaware's black residents were held in slavery. Although the number of slaves continued to decline, some masters still tenaciously held to their legal right to own other human beings. Free blacks like Abraham and Mary Ann Shadd joined societies that urged the abolition of slavery and assisted runaway slaves to escape to the North. Delaware shares the Delmarva Peninsula with Virginia and Maryland, which were also slave states. Slaves escaping from the southern part of the Peninsula usually came north through Wilmington on their way to the free state of Pennsylvania. Among the escaping slaves who followed this route was the legendary Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on Maryland's Eastern Shore in about 1821. In 1849, she escaped from her master's farm and set out for freedom. Traveling at night and hiding by day, she followed the Choptank River to the Delaware border. In Delaware, she was assisted by fellow blacks and by Quakers in towns and farms along the way. Those who assisted escaping slaves came to be known as "conductors" on the "Underground Railroad" of safe trails that led to freedom. Harriet established an especially significant friendship with one of her conductors, Thomas Garrett, a Quaker iron merchant in Wilmington.
After she had reached free land in Pennsylvania, Harriet decided she should go back down through Delaware to Maryland to guide her family and other fellow slaves to freedom. Showing remarkable courage and religious faith, Harriet Tubman made 19 trips into slave territory and conducted over 100 people to free land. To avoid detection, she used a variety of routes, which took her through many Delaware communities including Camden, Dover, Blackbird, Middletown, New Castle, Laurel, Milford, Millsboro, Seaford, Smyrna, Delaware City, and Wilmington. Probably no one knew Delaware's geography better than Harriet Tubman! Her map was not on paper but in her head. She was adept at disguise and despite the zealous efforts of law men and slave catchers, neither she nor any of the people she led were ever captured. Harriet Tubman became the most famous and admired figure on the Underground Railroad throughout the nation. She was known as the Moses of her people.
In 1861, many of the slave states seceded from the United States. They feared that slavery might be made illegal and formed the Confederate States of America. Delaware and Maryland, although they permitted slavery, remained loyal to the United States, and many black men from Delaware fought in the Civil War which followed. Within months of the 1865 Union victory in the Civil War, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ended slavery throughout the remaining slave states, including Delaware. Attention now focused on providing education and job opportunities for black people. A group of black and white people in Wilmington founded the Association for the Moral Improvement and Education of the Colored People in 1866. The Association opened schools throughout the state where black children and adults could learn to read and write. In Dover, an organization of black residents built a school on their own. Many of the teachers in these schools were young black women who had been trained at schools in Philadelphia or Baltimore.
Some white people, especially in rural areas, opposed the education of blacks because they feared the loss of cheap labor and did not wish to accord blacks the respect that education confers. Black teachers were targets of this resentment. It took a great deal of courage for a black woman to become the sole teacher of blacks in a rural community. Black teachers were constantly threatened with violence. A teacher named Sarah Owens was assaulted in Georgetown by ruffians who threw rocks at the windows of the house where she was living. A school in Slaughter Neck was burned and one teacher became insane and had to return to the North. But, the overwhelming desire of Delaware's black population to learn kept most teachers at their tasks. The Association provided the first chance for education that Delaware's black population had had outside of Wilmington. In 1875, 10 years after the Civil War ended, the Delaware Legislature finally agreed to establish state-funded schools for its black citizens, financed by a special school tax that only blacks would pay. Since most black families were very poor, their schools and teachers' salaries were inadequate, but heroic black women continued the work of teaching their fellow blacks, who had so long been denied education.
The two most important institutions in the lives of Delaware's black people during the late 19th century and early 20th century were their churches and schools. Women played important roles in both, but whereas men were usually the leaders in church affairs, women often occupied leadership roles in the schools. The most significant female black leader in Delaware in those years was Edwina Kruse, the principal of Howard High School in Wilmington.
Born in the West Indies, Edwina Kruse came to Delaware in 1870 as one of the young teachers employed by the Delaware Association for the Moral Improvement and Education of the Colored People. In 1876, she was named principal of Howard School in Wilmington, the Association's largest school. The school was named for General O. O. Howard who headed the federal government's Freedmen's Bureau, which funded the building. In 1891 Howard became the first black high school in the state.
Poorly financed and segregated though they were, Delaware's black schools provided unusual opportunities for black educators. Further South, black education hardly existed, while north of Delaware, where blacks and whites attended integrated schools, black teachers were seldom hired. Edwina Kruse took advantage of Delaware's unique situation to build an excellent teaching staff at Howard. Alice Baldwin came from Cambridge, Massachusetts to head Howard's teacher education program. Alice Dunbar-Nelson of New Orleans, Louisiana, the widow of famed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, and a published author in her own right held a graduate degree from Columbia University. She was head of the school's English Department.
Alice Dunbar-Nelson's niece, Pauline A. Young, who attended Howard and later served as the school's librarian, described Edwina Kruse as an "efficient, severe, responsible and ever conscientious teacher and citizen of Wilmington." Miss Kruse was a leader among Wilmington's small but proud and energetic black middle class. She helped organize the Delaware State Federation of Negro Women's Clubs. The clubs worked to secure more opportunities for black women and girls.
One of their goals was accomplished in 1920 when the Negro Women's Clubs founded the Industrial School for Girls to help young women who had gotten in trouble with the law to learn honest occupations. The Industrial School was one of the first black-controlled corporations in Delaware. Alice Dunbar-Nelson left her teaching post at Howard High School to head the new school. A few years later, the Industrial School was renamed the Kruse Industrial School, in honor of the role played by Edwina Kruse in founding it.
Howard teachers were also leaders in many other social and political causes. Emma Belle Gibson Sykes was born in Christiana, Delaware in 1885 but later moved to Wilmington and married dentist George Sykes. Mrs. Sykes was very active in local politics as a campaign volunteer for the Republican party. Over the years, she held several paid political jobs in Wilmington and New Castle County, including Register of Wills. Mrs. Sykes also worked in the Women's Suffrage Movement. Until 1920, American women could not vote in elections and "suffragists" campaigned for many years to win that right of citizenship. Along with many other women, Emma Belle Gibson Sykes marched in "suffrage" parades and worked to convince male legislators to grant women the basic right to vote and to have a voice in their government.
Blanche Stubbs, the wife of Wilmington doctor J. Bacon Stubbs, was another teacher who worked for Women's Suffrage. Mrs. Stubbs served as the head of the Equal Suffrage Study Club, a group of African American women who favored women's right to vote. In 1914, Stubbs marched in Delaware's first "suffrage" parade in Wilmington and was mentioned by a local newspaper as a leader in the movement.
Stubbs was involved in the Thomas Garrett Settlement House as well. The Garrett House, named after Harriet Tubman's friend and fellow conductor on the Underground Railroad, was founded in 1911 by the City Federation of Colored Women. Blanche Stubbs served as president of the Federation and Director of the Settlement for many years. The Garrett Settlement House offered classes to black adults and children, including a kindergarten, as well as recreational activities.
Black women played a lead role in founding and running Delaware's first branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People--the NAACP--in Wilmington in 1912. Edwina Kruse and Alice Baldwin were among the founders. Elizabeth Williams America, a hairdresser, served as the branch's first president. Alice Dunbar-Nelson served as the group's secretary for many years. She was succeeded by Alice Baldwin who took on that task for at least a decade. In its first 20 years, the NAACP took on many causes, winning some and losing others. One focus of the group was the bias in Delaware courtrooms against African Americans. There were no black lawyers, judges, or jury members, and more often than not, African Americans involved in criminal cases and civil suits lost in court. The NAACP set out to make judges and state officials aware of the inequality. In at least two cases involving black women who had complaints against their white, male employers, one in Kent County and one in New Castle County, the Wilmington branch of the NAACP succeeded in forcing the courts to hear the women's complaints. Alice Baldwin later reported to the NAACP national office in New York City that both women lost their legal suits, but the NAACP felt they had achieved a small victory by at least forcing the two employers to go to court.
The Wilmington NAACP was particularly worried about the legal rights of African American women who worked. Black women, more often than white women, needed to work to earn a living. Employers usually hired black men only for the lowest paying jobs in business, industry, and in private homes. So, black women worked to help support, feed, and clothe their families. Yet, like black men, black women were usually hired only for low-paying jobs.
The census of 1900, for example, revealed that of the roughly 2,000 black women in Wilmington who were employed, more than three of every four were household servants. The next largest employment group were laundresses. Only a small number held higher paying industrial or teaching jobs. While it is also true that the majority of white women who worked outside their own homes were employed in unskilled, low- wage jobs, a somewhat higher proportion of their number held skilled jobs in industry or taught school.
The situation had not changed very much 50 years later. A report made in 1950 by two professors at Delaware State College showed that over half of working black women still worked as household servants. Other jobs that had opened to women over the years such as secretaries, store clerks, government workers, skilled industry workers, and even office and business managers, were not often available to African Americans. Most black women who needed to work still found jobs as household workers. Women who were lucky enough to go to college or to receive professional training had only two likely career choices--teaching or nursing. Only a handful of black women in Delaware could find employment in these fields.
Nursing could be a particularly frustrating line of work for black women. Like doctors, nurses wanted to help people feel better and stay healthy, but black nurses faced many obstacles in caring for their patients. In Delaware, hospitals discriminated against African Americans by separating black and white patients; in addition, black patients often received care only after all white patients had been treated. Until the 1940s, no hospitals in Delaware would hire black doctors or nurses. Even once the ban was lifted, white patients would refuse to be treated by a black professional. So, African Americans most often worked in private practice or with government health clinics, frequently going to the homes of their patients. Many of the patients were poor and suffered health problems due to poor diets, stress, exhaustion, and untreated diseases. Many could not afford to see a doctor or a nurse unless they were very sick. Also, there just were not enough doctors and nurses willing to treat poor and black patients. Another Delaware State College report in 1956 pointed out there was only one black doctor, one dentist, and a handful of nurses below the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. In New Castle County, there were several black doctors and nurses, but most practiced in the city of Wilmington. They worked longer hours for less pay than most white doctors and nurses.
Jane Mitchell, a registered nurse and a native of Claymont, returned to Delaware with her husband in 1945 after World War II had ended. She had earned her nursing degree at Provident Hospital in Baltimore, a well-known teaching hospital for African Americans. Mitchell had trained in a hospital and wanted to be a hospital nurse, but because of her color, she could not get a job in her home state. For a few years, Mitchell worked in a Philadelphia hospital, but in 1949 she became the first African American nurse to break the color barrier in Delaware when she was hired at the new Governor Bacon Health Clinic in Delaware City.
Some white nurses protested Mitchell's hiring, and her years at Governor Bacon were not easy ones. White patients sometimes shrank from her caring touch, and her colleagues did not include her in their social life. Still, black patients at the hospital were grateful to have a sympathetic nurse, and other black nurses across Delaware cheered her on. Most importantly, she loved the work. After several years, Mitchell left Governor Bacon to work as a nurse at Delaware State Hospital outside of Wilmington, and she eventually became Director of Nursing there. In her position, she was able to hire and promote the nurses she supervised without regard to race and color but on the basis of skill and dedication. It pleased her to encourage deserving black nurses and to make sure they received the consideration she had not received in her younger years.
If there were color barriers in health care when Jane Mitchell started her career in 1945, there were also color barriers in education. Delaware ran a segregated public school system, which meant that the state required by law that black and white children go to separate schools. The law also required that these schools be "separate but equal," but, in fact, black schools throughout Delaware received fewer state funds and less official attention than white schools did. These schools were usually older and less well equipped than white schools. Indeed, black schools often received secondhand books, desks, and chairs whenever white schools got new ones. African Americans knew this was not fair, but they worked to make the black schools as good as they could be. Howard High School, following the path set by Edwina Kruse, was still one of the best schools in the region, but except for Howard, Brown Vocational High School in Wilmington, a private high school run from the Delaware State College Campus in Dover, and in the 1950s a new school in Georgetown, there were no other high schools anywhere in Delaware for African Americans. The state also failed to provide school bus service for black students or schools, although white children could ride buses if they needed transportation. This practice made it hard for African Americans in Delaware to get a high school education outside Wilmington or Dover. Young African Americans from all over the state sometimes traveled to one city or the other and lived with relatives or friends in order to go to school. Many thought the laws would never change, but in 1954, they did.
In that year, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to rule upon a group of lawsuits brought by the National Office of the NAACP in four different states and the District of Columbia. In each case, lawyers from the NAACP argued that separate white and black schools should be ended, or desegrated, because the segregated black schools were never equal to the white schools. Two of the desegregation cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court were from Delaware.
The lawyer for the NAACP cases in Delaware was an African American man named Louis L. Redding, the first black lawyer in Delaware. His clients, the first citizens who sued to desegregate the schools, were two black school girls and their mothers. Shirley Bulah was an elementary school student in Hockessin. She and her mother Sarah went to Louis Redding and asked him to force the state to let Shirley ride on a school bus that passed the Bulah's home each day. But the Bulah's quickly agreed with Redding that it would be better to end the unequal system of separate schools. Soon after, Ethel Louise Belton, a high school student from Claymont, and her mother Ethel, also sought out Redding, to come forward to sue to end legal segregation. Louis Redding and his clients won their cases in the Delaware courts, and in 1954, the United States Supreme Court also ruled in favor of desegregation, thus ending, "separate but equal," education all across America.
In Delaware, Louis Redding's two sisters, both of whom were school teachers, became two of the first black teachers to teach white students. Lillian Redding Bailey worked with black and white special-needs children at the Mary C. I. Williams School in Wilmington. Gwendolyn Redding left her long-time teaching job at Howard High School to teach at P.S. duPont High School, one of the biggest and best-equipped public schools in Delaware. These women were good teachers, and they helped prove, along with many others, that African Americans could teach white children well, just as white teachers could teach black children.
The school desegregation case was a big victory in the effort by African Americans to win the same civil rights that white Americans enjoyed. There was still much work to be done, however. In Delaware, as in other states, the laws still allowed business owners to refuse to serve black customers, and many employers still hired African Americans only for low-paid jobs or not at all. Part of the fight for civil rights would go on in the courts, but while working for that, the NAACP and other groups also decided to try to change peoples' minds one step at a time by showing them how discrimination hurt people and business. All across America, African Americans organized to protest unequal treatment.
In Delaware, the Wilmington Branch of the NAACP often led this effort, but there were also strong NAACP branches in Milford and Dover, and a growing unit in Sussex County. During much of this work, a woman, Pauline Young, was the state president of NAACP branches in Delaware. She was a popular and beloved leader who had given much of her life to the study of African American history. Miss Young had started the library at Howard High School in the 1930s and served as the school's first librarian. In 1947, she wrote the first study of black history in Delaware, "The Negro in Delaware, Past and Present," which was published in the book Delaware: A History of the First State by Henry Clay Reed. Pauline Young had grown up with the Wilmington NAACP. Young's aunt, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, had been a founder of the Wilmington branch and one of its first secretaries. Pauline Young had taken the job of secretary in 1930 and had continued to serve the branch for many years.
Even into her 80s, Pauline Young remained an active member of the NAACP and was a leader in preserving black history. Her collection of newspaper articles and other histories can now be found in the Pauline A. Young Memorabilia Room at the Howard Career Center in Wilmington.
Pauline Young was not the only woman involved in the NAACP's civil rights work in the 1950s and 1960s. African Americans fought for equal rights through sit- ins at restaurants that did not serve them, formed picket lines at stores or businesses that would not hire or sell to them, and marched along public streets to show strength, solidarity, and determination to finally be heard, noticed, and treated with respect. Black women in Delaware participated in the protests, taking the same risks that men did, and developing strategies to make people listen to their cause. In fact, Littleton Mitchell, Pauline Young's successor as president of the Delaware State Conference of the NAACP, has frequently acknowledged the crucial role played by Delaware women in the civil rights movement. He has credited a few of his female colleagues in particular. Dorothy Oliver of Ellendale, a day care provider by profession, served as treasurer of the NAACP and made sure the funds were there when needed. Dr. Mary C. Baker of Dover, as chairman of the education committee, represented the NAACP and the interests of minority students at State Board of Education meetings. Mitchell also credited Ruth Kolber, a white woman, of Wilmington as "A main ingredient in the NAACP."
In Delaware, black women have always been leaders in the fight for equal rights for African Americans and in the struggle to provide health care, opportunity, and education to African American children and adults. As a result of their hard work, more opportunities became available in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and black women have also taken advantage of these new opportunities in education, politics, business, law, and in every other profession.
In 1952, Golden Wilson of Wilmington began a pathbreaking career in law enforcement. She started as a school crossing guard, but Wilson wanted to be a police officer even though Wilmington had never hired a female police officer. Golden Wilson worked her way up to meter maid and eventually to the police academy. She became Wilmington's first female police officer and retired in 1977 as a sergeant.
Dr. Ruth Laws was born in North Carolina and came to Delaware after she had earned a doctorate degree in education from New York University in 1936. She made a big difference in public education in her new home state. Dr. Laws taught in Wilmington for many years. She became state supervisor of Home Economics in 1966 and later State Director of Adult and Continuing Education. She also helped develop the Head Start Program in Delaware. Eventually, Dr. Laws became a Vice President at Delaware Technical and Community College. She has received many awards for her work and serves as a role model for other women in the education field.
Another role model is Dr. Hilda A. Davis. Dr. Davis also came to Delaware as an adult, after receiving her Ph.D. in English at the University of Chicago. In 1965, Dr. Davis became the first African American to earn a full-time teaching job at the University of Delaware in Newark. During her years at the University of Delaware, she helped found the University Writing Center and participated in other educational and political causes.
Many women have served the state by their official and unofficial social work with the poor, with young people, and with the elderly. Annie Brown King came to Wilmington after World War II and worked at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church to help young people find jobs and recreational outlets. In the 1970s, Delawarean Lula Mae Nix received national attention for her work counseling troubled young women. She became the first director of the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in Washington, D.C. Reverend Dr. Jymmie McClinton, of the Star of Bethlehem A.U.M.P. congregation in Belvedere, founded an inmates Friends Group to deliver food and counseling to Delaware prisoners. Arva Johnson, a Wilmington native, became one of the first African American administrators in Delaware's state government, working in Urban Affairs under Governor Russell Peterson. Johnson, who graduated from Boston University and earned a master's degree from Howard University, also became the first African American to serve on the Board of Trustees at the University of Delaware.
African American women have blazed a trail in politics and the law as well. Beatrice Patton Carroll, a graduate of Wilmington's Howard High School and Howard University, became interested in politics in 1960 when John F. Kennedy ran for president. Besides work in social and civic groups, she has been a frequent political campaign volunteer during the 1970s and 80s and the only female to run for Mayor of Wilmington. Reverend Grace Batten of the Mount Zion Holy Episcopal Church in Milton became interested in politics as well. She was elected to the Milton Town Council in 1982. In 1994, she became Delaware's first female black mayor. Paulette Sullivan Moore became Delaware's first black female lawyer in 1977. Judge Haile L. Alford became the first black female judge in 1992.
The Delaware State Report of 1956 showed few career opportunities outside of domestic service, teaching, and some unskilled labor jobs for African Americans, particularly for black women. By contrast, the United States Census Report for Delaware for 1990 shows only two percent of working black women engaged in the lowest-paid household service work. At the same time, the report shows African American women represented in every occupational category--from executive, managerial, office, clerical, sales, and manufacturing. To be sure, there are still specific occupations for which there were no black women listed in Delaware by 1990, including architect, firefighter, and veterinarian. Moreover, traditionally male fields remain dominated by men, and the numbers suggest that black women have greater difficulty breaking into these fields than do white women. Still, the progress made since 1956 is undeniable and encouraging. After over 250 years of history in Delaware, African American women should expect the chance to use their skills, to express their interests, and to shape their communities in visible ways.
In large measure, the progress has come about because black women have worked to create their own opportunities. It is not possible to note all achievements of women in Delaware who have worked to bring about a truly democratic America. Many of the women noted in this essay, however, have broken race and gender barriers once thought immoveable. In doing so, they have created a better chance for the women who will follow them. It will be up to today's students to create even more opportunity for the children of tomorrow.
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