Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980

Delaware Historical Society
and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
Wilmington, DE

Beginning as early as 1693, African Americans have a long history of living and working in Delaware. Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980 tells the untold story of the African American experience in America’s first state. Using a variety of voices, artifacts, and images, the exhibit helps connect Delaware’s African American population to their local heritage through themes of religion and civil rights.

Forging Faith, Building Freedom focuses on Delaware’s key role in the development of independent black churches in the United States featuring four Delawareans who led the movement for religious and civil freedom. Additionally, the exhibit explores the diverse history of Delaware’s African American faith communities, presenting a selection of notable preachers, aspects of congregational life, and the church’s participation in the ongoing fight for liberty and equality.

The collaboration between the Delaware Historical Society and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs was essential to Forging Faith, Building Freedom.  Staff from the Division designed, fabricated, and installed the exhibition as the historical society currently lacks that capacity. The collaboration, a first for the two organizations, proved to be a successful union of the Society’s curatorial expertise and the Division’s strength in designing and installing exhibitions.

Forging Faith, Building Freedom also features an online version of the exhibit including the keynote lecture given at the opening. This will be available to a worldwide audience long after the gallery exhibition closes. Research for the exhibit content included collecting bibliographic materials and objects as well as collaborating with living clergy and church members. By doing so, the museum bolstered its connection with the African American community as a place to learn about their history and foster opportunities for the future.