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Elaine Brenchley, First State Heritage Park, (302) 739-9194 (, or Necia Beck, Delaware State Parks, (302) 739-9175, Photo available

First State Heritage Park Commemorates Black History Month

DOVER (Jan.31, 2012) – On Saturday, Feb. 4, the First State Heritage Park’s monthly First Saturdays in the First State programming turns a special focus on the history of African Americans. Living history performances at the John Bell House provide “Windows on the African American Experience” through three historical vignettes from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Tales of Slavery and Freedom walking tour of The Green further expands upon Delaware’s complicated position before and during the Civil War. That war itself is the subject of the current exhibit at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, and guided tours of the exhibit highlight the role of Delaware’s members of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) during that conflict.

Moving into the 20th century, a special lecture at the Delaware Public Archives tells the story of World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen. Those interested in researching family history during the Underground Railroad era will have a chance to talk with a panel of genealogy experts at The Old State House.

Regular First Saturday activities include tours of the two capitol buildings in Delaware’s capital city –The Old State House and Legislative Hall. Exhibits are also on display at the Johnson Victrola Museum, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and the Biggs Museum of American Art, which also features its monthly Biggs Kids program. Until further notice, the Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room at the Delaware Public Archives will not be open to researchers on the first Saturday of the month. Instead, the facility will be open to researchers on the second Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. 

Admission to all park sites is free. Centrally located free parking is available at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located at 121 Duke of York Street. For more information about The First State Heritage Park programs, the public may call (302) 739-9194 or visit

First Saturday Activities on Saturday, Feb. 4 

10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
We Poor Devils
First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries
Guided interpretations of the current exhibition, The Civil War: Five Delaware Soldiers’ Stories, with a focus on the soldiers known as the U.S. Colored Troops that enlisted from Delaware.

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Last tour leaves at 3 p.m.)
Walking Tour: Tales of Slavery and Freedom
Meet at the John Bell House on The Green
Visitors will learn about Delaware’s complicated positions regarding freedom and slavery, and its role as a border state during the Civil War; find out how a brave group of runaway slaves known as the Dover Eight made a daring escape from the Dover Jail; and hear about famous African American Richard Allen and his connections to the Golden Fleece Tavern.

10:30 a.m.
The Tuskegee Airmen
Delaware Public Archives
The Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first African American military aviators, are remembered in a presentation by Brigadier General Ernest George Talbert (Retired, USAF). The story of their achievements during World War II is prefaced by the stories of African American warriors and civilian aviators who preceded the “Tuskegee Experience.”

11 a.m., 2 and 3 p.m.
Windows on the African American Experience
John Bell House on The Green
Visitors will enjoy three living history performances, A Black Man's Journey, A Judge’s Ruling and  End Slavery, Stop the War. These short performances bring to life the attitudes of Delawareans during the 18th and 19th centuries.   

12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Underground Railroad Family Research-Ask the Experts!
The Old State House
A panel that includes Delaware’s top researchers in the field of genealogy will help visitors research family genealogy during the period of the Underground Railroad (late 1700s to 1860s). They will also review visitors’ research, answer questions and offer advice and guidance. Reservations are recommended by calling (302) 744-5055.


Other February First Saturday Activities: 

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
The First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries
121 Duke of York Street
The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs presents two exhibits:

USS Delaware: An American Battleship. The story of the USS Delaware (1909-1924), told through objects, photographs, and ceremonial silver.

The Civil War: Five Delaware Soldiers’ Stories
This exhibit recognizes the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. Through the state’s collection of objects, portraits, and documents, personal experiences of the brutal journey through the War of the Rebellion are revealed.  

Guided Tours of Legislative Hall-Delaware’s Capitol
Legislative Hall has been the seat of Delaware’s General Assembly, the supreme lawmaking body in the state, since 1933.  Tours of the House and Senate Chambers teach visitors about the legislature and Delaware history. Photo ID is required for all adults entering the building.

Mardi Gras and All That Jazz
Johnson Victrola Museum
The sounds of Mardi Gras and New Orleans’ Jazz are celebrated. Visitors will find out how Victor records contributed to this genre and hear vintage Victor recordings on the original talking machines.

 2 – 3 p.m.
Biggs Kids – Guppy Love
Biggs Museum of American Art
For those who are fishing for compliments this Valentine’s Day, a sweet school of guppies will send best “fishes” to special some ones. Ages 5 to 10. Reservations required by calling (302) 674-2111.

The First State Heritage Park at Dover is Delaware’s first urban “park without boundaries” linking historic and cultural sites in the city that has been the seat of state government since 1777.

The park is a partnership of state agencies, under the leadership of Delaware State Parks, working in collaboration with city and county government, nonprofit organizations and the private sector.

Vol. 42, No. 20

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