Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.
Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans.
Delaware County History
Many vital parts of the Underground Railroad, a network of people who offered shelter and aid to enslaved people on their journey to the north, had their home in Delaware County.
Guides on the Underground Railroad, known as conductors, sheltered fugitive enslaved people in private homes, churches, and schoolhouses in a dangerous passage to freedom.
Recently, a new self-guided walking tour of some underground railroad sites has opened in the county. The tour begins in Drexel Hill and terminates at Friends Southwestern, where many prominent abolitionists and notable figures are buried.
Delaware County is home to Eden Cemetery, the oldest public African American burial ground in the United States and the final resting place to more than 400 U.S. Colored Troops.
Eden Cemetery is also home to several famous individuals, including Marian Anderson, the American contralto. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Washington, D.C.
Anderson, in return, struck a blow for civil rights when she sang on the Lincoln Memorial steps to an in-person audience of 75,000 and a radio audience of millions. Learn more about Marian Anderson and her career.
Also buried at Eden is William Still, a free-born man, leader of the abolitionist movement, and father of the Underground Railroad. Still helped guide hundreds of enslaved people to escape bondage, at one point, helping as many as 60 enslaved people a month flee to freedom. Learn more about William Still’s life and work.
Other pioneers buried at Eden include John Baxter Taylor Jr., a veterinarian who was the first African American Olympic gold medalist, and the Rev. Dr. Charles Tindley, regarded as the Father of American Gospel Music, as well as Laura Wheeler Waring, the well-known Harlem Renaissance artist.
Delaware County is home to the oldest historically Black college in the United States, Cheyney University. Lecturers at Cheyney include W.E.B DuBois and Langston Hughes; commencement speakers have included former President Jimmy Carter, author Alex Haley, and former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin J. Hooks.
A native of Chester, Delaware County, Bayard Rustin was a civil rights activist and close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. In 1941, Rustin worked on the March on Washington Movement, whose aim was to end racial discrimination in employment. Rustin was also one of the principal organizers of Freedom Rides, rides on interstate buses into the segregated Southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years that challenged the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. Learn more about Bayard Rustin.
Other notable Delaware County natives include Leroy Russell Burrell, a former track and field athlete who won gold in the 100 m ahead of Carl Lewis at the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle; Ted Dean, running back for the Philadelphia Eagles; famed broadcast journalist, Bill Whitaker; and Wanda Sykes, actress, comedian, and writer.
The following events and activities are taking place for Black History Month:
Delaware County Community College
- Learning from Our History: An Exhibit of Dockets for Enslaved People in Delaware County
Thursday, Feb. 17, 5 – 6:15 p.m.
- Equity & Mental Health: Collective Burnout; Collaborative Restoration
Hosted by Delaware County Community College’s Center for Equity and Social Justice
Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 | 5 – 6:15 p.m.
- Black & Diverse Business Forum
Delaware County Community College, Presented by Senator Tim Kearney and Rep. Gina Curry
Saturday, Feb. 26 | 9 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Delaware County Historical Society Virtual Program
Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Company’s Yard No. 4
Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m.
Nile Swim Club Black History Month Virtual Trivia
Saturday, Feb. 19 | 4 – 6 p.m.
Every Child Counts Book Drive
February marks the opening of an innovative and mission-led craft food hall in Chester. A creative way to tackle food insecurity in the city and help underserved communities.
The new food hall is host to critically acclaimed chefs and some of the local best-in-class food operators, including The ‘All-Star Chef Team’ that designed the menu includes Aziza Young (Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen alum), Kurt Evans (The World’s 50 Best Chefs), Malik Ali (Chopped alum), Gregory Headen (Chopped champion) and Stephanie Willis (Masterchef alum). Learn more about Vittles.
Looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month virtually with a team at work? Unexpected Virtual Tours put together some creative ideas. Learn more.