Archaeological research has led to the identification of a burial ground at the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover, Delaware. The burial ground was found during archaeological fieldwork on March 9, 2021 and likely holds the enslaved individuals and other African Americans who lived, worked, and died on land owned by the Dickinson family. “We remain committed to telling inclusive history. This includes restoring dignity to those who have been forgotten. This important discovery presents a powerful moment for every Delawarean,” says Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock.

Photo of a field staked out as part of the search for the burial ground at the John Dickinson Plantation.
Field staked out as part of the search for the burial ground at the John Dickinson Plantation.

For two years the Department of State, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has undertaken archaeological investigations on the 450 acres of state property. The work has focused on identifying the burial ground for enslaved individuals that is referenced in primary source documents. “This is sacred ground for Delaware, and we will continue to treat it with the honor and respect it deserves. Our path forward is to protect the site, engage with the community about how to proceed, and continue to learn more through research and dialogue,” says Tim Slavin, Director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Statement about unauthorized media images of the John Dickinson Plantation burial ground

The John Dickinson Plantation is the boyhood home of John Dickinson, a Founding Father of the United States, a framer and signer of the U.S. Constitution. Dickinson wrote eloquently about freedom and liberty while at the same time holding other human beings in bondage.

Photo of the log'd dwelling at the John Dickinson Plantation
Log’d dwelling at the John Dickinson Plantation. The building is a reconstruction of the type of housing inhabited by the enslaved people at the plantation as well as its tenants and indentured servants. The site’s mansion house is in the background.

At the John Dickinson Plantation, a state museum operated by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the goal is to educate the public about the past utilizing the historic, cultural, and natural resources associated with the site.

The Division will continue to undertake additional research to learn more about this burial ground and those interred here and to engage with descendent communities in making important decisions regarding the expansion of the interpretive footprint of this land.

There is no access to this location.

Press release, March 23, 2021
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs