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Delaware Public Archives

Within our collection is imbedded over 300 years of African American history. The Slavery Papers alone consist of hundreds of legal documents related to the treatment and lives of slaves in Delaware. Church records reveal the tone of parishioners towards slavery. Government documents provide insight into tax records and assessments that provide information about slaves and their owners. Negro court records of the 18th century reveal a special court for the trial of blacks. Our holdings include probate records dating from the 1680’s for all three counties, which can be checked for slave ownership and free African Americans. Recorder of Deeds records include land deeds, incorporation of churches, manumissions and the records of births of Negros. Early census records reveal the number of slaves a person owned with slavery schedules dating back to 1840 listing the owner with each slave’s age and sex. Newspaper collections recount the feeling and activities of the day and include advertisements, runaway ads, court coverage and commentary of contemporary laws and practices in addition to documenting the manner in which slaves fled. A secondary source, Charles L. Blockson’s “The Underground Railroad”, provides a 1897 interview with Harriet Tubman which describes her making use of stations at Camden, Dover, Blackbird, Laurel, Millsbourgh, Concord, Seaford, Georgetown, Lewes, Milford, Frederica, Smyrna, Delaware City, Middletown and New Castle. William Brinkley’s letter to William Still confirmed that “harrat stops by my hous” … and Garrett’s letter further confirmed her presence numerous times at his home/store in the vicinity of 2/3rd Shipley Streets (Thomas Garrett, Jr. Wilmington). This is just a sampling of what we have to offer. With all that has been revealed among our holdings there remains a wealth of information to be uncovered as it relates to the Underground Railroad in and through Delaware.

Location: 121 Duke of York Street, Dover, Delaware

Contact Person: Timothy A. Slavin

Contact Information: 302-744-5000 (main phone) / tslavin@state.de.us