Delaware museums mark African-American History Month with slate of programs

Living history performance scheduled for Feb. 1 at The Old State House
January 29, 2014
Willis Phelps will give a living history performance Feb. 1, portraying Pvt. James H. Elbert, who fought in the American Civil War. SOURCE SUBMITTED

The museums of the state of Delaware will offer a slate of programs and exhibits during February in commemoration of African-American History Month, an annual observance celebrating the invaluable contributions the black community has made to the culture and history of the United States. All programs listed are free and open to the public. For more information, call 302-744-5055.

Highlights of the month include “Ready to Fight for Freedom: James H. Elbert,” a living-history performance in which Willis Phelps portrays Pvt. James H. Elbert, C Company, 8th United States Colored Troops, who fought in the American Civil War. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and talk with Elbert, who will remain in character throughout his appearance. The program will take place at 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover.

Utilizing the exhibit An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware as a backdrop, guided tours at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and two Delaware leaders who aided in this freedom enterprise. Tours and exhibit are in the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover.

Tamara Jubilee-Shaw will present “Remembering Rosedale Beach” at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The program explores the history of Rosedale Beach near Millsboro, a popular waterfront resort run by, and for, people of color. It featured noted performers Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, among many others.

Each Saturday during the month, the John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, will offer special tours exploring the lives of African-Americans who lived in slavery and servitude at the home of John Dickinson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, known as the Penman of the Revolution.

Finally, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, The Old State House will present the Second Annual Samuel D. Burris Workshop exploring the latest research on Burris and his work as an Underground Railroad conductor in Delaware.

Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the six museums of the state of Delaware - the New Castle Court House Museum, the John Dickinson Plantation, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, The Old State House, the Johnson Victrola Museum and the Zwaanendael Museum - tell the story of the First State’s contributions to the history and culture of the United States.

For a complete list of February events at all Delaware museums, go to