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Setting the Stage


Like other border and southern states, Delaware practiced racial segregation well into the 20th century. Segregation restricted African Americans' access to railroad cars, hotels, theaters, and public buildings. African-American children suffered by having to attend separate schools with inferior materials and equipment. Prior to the Civil War, schools established by private organizations provided the few educational opportunities for the state's African-American children. In 1875 the Delaware state legislature first recognized the need to financially support schools for African Americans. This funding, provided by property taxes collected from African-American males, proved inadequate and the school facilities continued to be inferior to those in the white districts. In 1897, in response to the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling, the legislature began to require that state funds be distributed equally among schools for whites and African Americans. School districts still partially depended on property taxes, however, so African-American schools continued to receive less money than white schools.

Concerned about the poor condition of Delaware's public schools, including those for African-American students, philanthropist Pierre Samuel du Pont decided to donate money to have schools in the state rebuilt. More than 80 African-American schools were constructed with du Pont funding between 1919 and 1928.

 

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