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New Course Examines Black History and Literature

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Portrait of Mary Ann Shadd Cary

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​​Credit: Library and Archives Canada / C-029977​

The Department of English offers a new course for Spring 2023 – ENGL 344: African American Literature. Students will research and create a portion of a digital exhibit examining life for free Black people in Wilmington, Delaware, in the 1830s and 1840s – a time when Delaware had the largest percentage of free Black Americans in the country per total population and when a series of state laws limited their freedom.

Using resources within the Morris Library's Special Collections, students will use primary historical documents to recreate a period when the state of Delaware instituted several strict codes preventing African Americans' right to vote, to congregate in groups of three or more and prohibited Black children from attending public schools or to be formally educated. Many Black people left Wilmington during this time, including Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first Black woman to publish her own newspaper in North America and the first Black woman to be admitted to law school.

“We will spend time learning how do we as writers make history come to life — and digital life — in ways that intrigue and interest readers and make them want to know more," said Arline Wilson, Digital Humanities and Africana Scholar in Special Collections and course instructor.

The class also includes guest speakers and field trips to local historical sites. The digital exhibit will be linked to an online registry of virtual, digital and in-person events throughout 2023 celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of Shadd Cary's birth.​

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Students will research and create a portion of a digital exhibit examining life for free Black people in Wilmington, Delaware, in the 1830s and 1840s
 
 
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