Anyone who wants a first-hand look at documents that tell the story of African Americans who once lived in Kent County should visit the John Dickinson Plantation during a special workshop on Saturday.


Many don’t know that almost 100 years before the Emancipation Proclamation, John Dickinson manumitted – or freed – his slaves. However he wasn’t living on his Dover plantation at the time, and the tenants who were didn’t follow his lead.

“At any given time you could have slaves, free blacks and indentured servants in the same area,” said Gloria Henry, site supervisor at the John Dickinson Plantation.

That’s one of the tidbits people will pick up at “Documenting the African American Experience at the John Dickinson Plantation” from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover.

The workshop will allow visitors to not only see documents, but also to learn how to read these 18th century artifacts, and find out how they are interpreted.

“That’s only half the battle, having the documents,” said Gloria Henry, site supervisor. “If you can’t read it and you don’t know exactly what the information is you’re getting or where to get supplemental information, it doesn’t help that much.”

The Visitor Center will be set up with tables, lights, magnifying sheets and more to make sure guests can get a good look at the documents and items that tell the story of the Plantation. They also can check out hearth cooking and other activities on site.

The program is interesting because of its content, but also because if helps people learn to read historical documents and discover their own past.

“There is nothing more thrilling than finding a document and making a connection yourself,” Henry said. “Actually being able to do it yourself is almost indescribable.”

The program will be led by Madeline Dunn, curator of education for the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, and Henry.