Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage
504 N. Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801
(302) 656-0637

Wednesday - Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Closed major holidays.  Click here for Society calendar.

 

Littleton Mitchell, Courtesy of University of Delaware

Jane Mitchell, Courtesy of University of Delaware

The Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage honors two persons who dedicated their professional lives to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for African Americans and other disenfranchised Delawareans. As one of Delaware’s first African American nurses, Jane Evelyn Mitchell worked her entire career at the Delaware Psychiatric Hospital. Her husband, Littleton P. Mitchell, served the United States in World War II as a Tuskegee Airmen instructor and then spent his entire career as a teacher and counselor at the Governor Bacon Health Center. Both were members of the Delaware chapter of the NAACP, Mr. Mitchell serving as president for thirty years and at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. For more information about Jane Evelyn Mitchell and Littleton P. Mitchell, please click here.

The purpose of the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage is to collect, preserve, research and present for public enrichment the history and heritage of Delaware’s African Americans and it is headquartered on the Delaware Historical Society’s Wilmington campus in the Delaware History Museum.

The Mitchell Center includes Journey to Freedom, an exhibition which explores Delaware's African American history through ten thematic sections beginning with Delaware’s first documented black resident Antoni Swart, also known as Black Anthony, an enslaved African transported from the West Indies in 1639.  The exhibition presents topics of slavery and resistence, faith and freedom, pursuit of equality and expressions of selfhood and community. It also highlights the significant achievements of African American Delawareans within the state and others such as Reverend Peter Spencer and Louis L. Redding, who impacted the nation. The Mitchell Center uses a variety of methods to present the African American historical record.  Museum and web exhibitions, educational programs, lectures and special events complement historical society programs on African American history and culture. 

The development of the Center for African American Heritage was led by a statewide Advisory Council in concert with the Delaware Historical Society’s Board of Trustees, professional staff and content specialists.  To learn more about the Center for African American Heritage and to add your name to the mailing list, please email deinfo@dehistory.org or call (302) 655-7161.


Voices of the Elders

The Delaware Historical Society Mitchell Center's Voices of the Elders oral history series highlights six prominent African American community leaders in Delaware. The series features interviews with James H. Gilliam, Sr. Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, The Rev. Canon Lloyd S. Casson, Dr. Lozelle DeLuz, Mayor George Wright, Jr., and Esthelda Parker-Selby.

Please click on the titles or images below to view the currently available interviews through the Society's YouTube channel or click here to view directly on the Society's video page:

  The Rev. Canon Lloyd Casson Esthelda "Stell" Parker-Selby_1977_Photo by Trish Langlois Dr. Joseph E. Johnson  

 
The Rev. Canon
Lloyd S. Casson:
Clergyman and
Community Leader
Esthelda "Stell"
Parker-Selby:
Educator and
Politician

Dr. Joseph E.
Johnson:
African American
Educator


 

 
  James H. Gilliam, Sr. Mayor George Wright Voices of the Elders with Dr. Lozelle DeLuz  
  James H. Gilliam, Sr.

Mayor George Wright, Jr.

Dr. Lozelle DeLuz  

 

A Look into our Acquisitions

McGowan Collection

The Delaware Historical Society’s Research Library and Mitchell Center for African American Heritage acquired a collection of papers from prominent Delaware psychologist and civil rights activist Dr. Eugene McGowan. Dr. McGowan was the first African American school psychologist in the state of Delaware. He generously donated his papers to the Delaware Historical Society in 2014.

About Dr. McGowan

Dr. McGowan came to Wilmington in 1951, where as the first African American school psychologist, he facilitated groundbreaking research on the inadequacy of standardized testing in measuring the intellectual capabilities of African American children. Dr. McGowan has been a leader in the community and active in professional and civil rights organizations. He served as the first African American member of the Delaware Board of Corrections as well as the first African American president of the Delaware Psychological Association. McGowan acted as president of the Delaware Leadership Council, vice-president of the Delaware Committee for Fair Practices, and a board member of the State Agency to Reduce Crime. He also worked with the National Mental Health Association and the local and state chapters of the NAACP.

Dr. Eugene McGowan, Delmarva Dialog, November 27, 1965

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter

One of the notable items among Dr. McGowan’s correspondence is a 1965 letter signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. thanking Dr. McGowan for inviting him to speak in New Castle, Delaware.

At the time he wrote to Dr. King, Dr. McGowan was actively working on voter registration and fair housing issues in Delaware.  

Dr. King graciously declined Dr. McGowan’s offer, explaining that his schedule was booked with commitments he had already made to other communities. In hindsight, it becomes clear that at the time of Dr. McGowan’s invitation, Dr. King was in the midst of catalyzing a broad, wide-reaching civil rights campaign that would have national consequences for issues of citizenship and racial equality.

 

 

 

 

 

Letter from Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to Dr. Eugene McGowan, September 1, 1965 (Three lines redacted for privacy)
Letter from Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
to Dr. Eugene McGowan, September 1, 1965
(Three lines redacted for privacy)
(Please click to enlarge.)

   

 

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(302) 655-7161  deinfo@dehistory.org
505 N. Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801
copyright 2016
 
The Delaware Historical Society is the statewide, non-profit organization that explores, preserves, shares, and promotes Delaware history, heritage, and culture to strengthen our community.