In time for Dover Days and to honor Dover’s part in the desegregation era, the Delaware Public Archives is adding a new feature to the Desegregation in Delaware display that was originally unveiled in February. As with many of the programs and displays that have been held at the Archives, the individual stories of some of the participants in these events might have become lost inadvertently through the passage of time.
Thankfully, one individual who has stepped forward to tell their story is Dr. Cherritta Laws Matthews. Following the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case, Matthews was the first minority student to enroll at Dover High School. Prior to becoming a student at Dover High, Matthews had attended Booker T. Washington, the local elementary and junior high school for African-Americans. Along with Marshall Arnell, Matthews was one of the first two minority students to graduate from Dover High School.
A dedicated educator, Matthews became a speech pathologist for the Capital School District and started the first speech pathology program in the district. In 1985, the Delaware Department of Public Instruction appointed Matthews as an evaluation specialist in the Planning, Research, and Evaluation Division. Less than a year later, she was promoted to supervisor of the Exceptional Children/Special Program Division. She has also been very active within her community, serving on a broad range of governmental, civic, and professional boards and organizations.
This new feature of the Desegregation in Delaware display will contain photos of Dover students, faculty, and schools from the time period and newspaper clippings that relate the story of Matthews’ and Arnell’s roles in Dover High’s desegregation history.
For more information about the Delaware Public Archives, go to archives.delaware.gov or www.facebook.com/DelawarePublicArchives. Read the Archives blog at archives.blogs.delaware.gov/ to learn more about events and other items of interest at the Archives.
The Delaware Public Archives is at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. North in Dover. The Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room is open to the public 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday to Friday. On the second Saturday of every month, the research room is open from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.