Cape Gazette

February named African-American History Month

Feb 14, 2014
Photo by: Steven Billups

On Feb. 5 Delaware Lt. Gov. Matt Denn joined Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock during a public ceremony to declare February 2014 as African American History Month. The ceremony was held at the Delaware Public Archives and this year’s announcement was special because 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the monumental Brown v. Board of Education ruling that paved the way to integrate public schools in both Delaware and throughout the nation.

The keynote speakers for the event were Toriano Giddens, principal at William Henry Middle School, and Dr. Homer W. Minus, one of the pioneers of the desegregation movement in Delaware.

Shown is Denn with a proclamation signed by Denn and Gov. Jack Markell declaring February as African-American History Month. Denn read the highlights of the proclamation saying, “Much of Delaware’s honor, strength and stature can be attributed to the diversity of cultures and traditions that are celebrated by the residents of this great state. We take this opportunity to celebrate African American History Month, in honor of the many contributions African-Americans have made to the state of Delaware and our nation.”


Toriano Giddens, principal at William Henry Middle School, spoke about the effect the ruling has on today’s generation of students and how it has positively impacted the students at his school. In the 1950s, the William Henry School was a segregated high school, one of the few in the state African American students could attend. Giddens touched on the many court cases that led to desegregation and told the story of his dream. He attended college through his sports skills but also took advantage of his education. In his talk Giddens said to the many students in the audience, “I want you to learn as much as you can, as often as you can. Spend your nights and weekends creating and inventing ideas instead of watching TV and playing game consoles. An education will gives us two things; it will give the right to say ‘I did’ instead of ‘I wish I had,’ and it also gives us something you can cherish for the rest of your life.”
The featured speaker for the day was Dr. Homer W. Minus, who discussed his status as one of the pioneers of the desegregation movement in Delaware when he served as a plaintiff in the Parker v. University of Delaware case. As part of a group of Delaware State College students who went to court to gain entry into the University of Delaware, Dr. Minus was one of the first seven African American students who were admitted to the University in the fall of 1950. Minus spoke of the many court cases that comprised in Brown vs. Board of Education. Minus said “Mr. Denn mentioned that there are some downsides to this desegregation business. There have been some regressions to Brown vs. Board of Education because of the loss of desegregation oversight by state and federal governments. Because of the cessation of busing of children from the inner cities to the suburbs. and from the suburbs to the inner cities in order to actually integrate the systems. But since all of those things have gone away, we are now regressing the percentages of the desegregation process, it is going down I am sad to say.” Minus quoted John Logan, a Brown University sociologist who wrote a book called the “Naked City” in 2011. In it he said, “Philadelphia is the number one separate and unequal school system in the country. In many cities in this country we are falling back to segregation, not because of the same reasons but with the same result. One of the reasons why we have this still going on, the segregation of the school systems, is because of where we live.” (Photo by: Steven Billups)
Denn greets the students from Tender Hearts Learning Center in Dover. (Photo by: Steven Billups)
Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock, left, and Delaware Heritage Commission Chairman Richard Carter look at the the new Brown v. Board of Education Shadow Box Exhibit at the Archives. The display presents the history of the events that took place in Delaware which eventually led to the desegregation of the public school system in the First State. (Photo by: Steven Billups)
Looking at the Underground Railroad exhibit in the Public Archives building is Paul Bryan of Dover. Bryan attended the event with several classmates of the then segregated William Henry High School of Dover. Bryan was from the graduating class of 1960. (Photo by: Steven Billups)
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