The University of Delaware has launched a deeper exploration of its history as it relates to both enslaved people and the treatment of Black students. The university, which dates back to 1743, has not found any evidence that enslaved people were used to build structures on campus.
However, Alison Parker, chair of the department of history at the University of Delaware report that “the first line of research was to look at the university archives’ land records, and part of that is to see who did own this land and was the land owned by people who were enslavers or people who held African Americans as indentured servants in long indentures such as 30 years, even in the years after the Civil War, which in fact we have found.”
The project will also look at the university’s record on racial desegregation. In the 1950s, the university opposed desegregation and Black students had to go to court to gain admission.
The project will also examine the current low enrollment of Black students. In 2020, the 948 Black students on campus accounted for 5.6 percent of the full-time student body population of 17,034. Progress in boosting Black enrollments has been slow. In 2010, Black students made up 5.2 percent of the student body. Blacks make up 33 percent of students graduating from public high schools in the state.
“Instead of just pretending like everything is fine, I think we need to talk about why are we in the position where people aren’t choosing to come to the University of Delaware, and then what can we do to make it a more inclusive and accepting space,” Dr. Parker said. “One part of that is to be honest about our past and about the problems that we’re still facing, because that’s the only way that we can move forward.”