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[graphic] 2005

Front entrance of Howard High School
Photo from National Historic Landmarks collection
Howard High School, in Wilmington, Delaware, is one of the schools directly associated with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that found racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. Howard High School was first mentioned in Belton v. Gebhart, one of the five separate cases that the U.S. Supreme Court placed under the aegis of Brown “so that the whole question would not smack of being purely a Southern one.” In Belton, parents of black students living in Claymont, Delaware, sued to enroll their children in the local all-white high school. Prior to Brown, black students were bused to Howard High School, which was nine miles away in an undesirable part of Wilmington. The Delaware court concluded that “the mental health problems created by racial segregation contributed to a lack of educational progress, and furthermore that under the separate but equal doctrine the plaintiffs have a right to send their children to the white schools.”

Side/rear view of Howard High School
Photo from National Historic Landmarks collection

Founded in 1867, Howard High School was the first school in Delaware to offer a complete high school education to black students and was one of the earliest black secondary schools in the Nation. Though there were earlier incarnations of Howard High School, the existing Neoclassical building was the work of the famed school design firm of Guilbert and Betelle. It was built in 1927 with a large financial contribution from General Motors Chairman Pierre S. du Pont. At the time, the school was considered to be one of the finest--black or white--in the country. Notable faculty and graduates include teacher and early feminist writer Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Belton v. Gebhart lawyer Louis L. Redding, artist Edward L. Loper, Sr., trumpeter Clifford “Brownie” Brown and former Delaware State Senator Herman Holloway.

In recognition of designation as a National Historic Landmark, on April 5, 2005, Delaware Senator Joseph Biden state:

“[t]he selection of Howard High School as a historic landmark is fitting because it encompasses both the struggles of our past and the promise of our future. Our hope is that this recognition will serve as a very visible and powerful reminder of just how far we have come and how much further we must still go.”

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