On June 15, 2022, the American Association for State and Local History announced that it has presented a prestigious Award of Excellence to the John Dickinson Plantation, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, for the project, “Search, Discovery, and Interpretation of the African Burial Ground at the John Dickinson Plantation.” The Award of Excellence is part of the Association’s Leadership in History Awards, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation of state and local history.

Logo of the American Association for State and Local History's Leadership in History Awards

As part of the project, a concerted effort to find the burial ground at the John Dickinson Plantation began in the late summer of 2020. In March 2021, after utilizing research from surviving documents, aerial photography and archaeology, the African Burial Ground was discovered. Project development began with decisions on how to interpret this culturally sensitive and historically significant site. The goals for interpretation included delineating the historical context of enslaved peoples’ lives, recognizing African Americans in the cultural landscape and locating those with ties to the burial ground. Initial programs included public visitations to the African Burial Ground, a virtual visitation for school children, and culminated in an online panel discussion on Dec. 8, 2021 with Gov. John Carney, which can be seen here: https://youtu.be/P1JliA3uwL4.

Photo showing the location of the African burial ground in a field at the John Dickinson Plantation.
Stakes mark the location of the African burial ground in a field at the John Dickinson Plantation.

The American Association for State and Local History’s awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions and programs to make contributions in this arena.

The John Dickinson Plantation is located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, Delaware. Dickinson, known as the “Penman of the Revolution,” was one of America’s founding fathers who wrote of freedom and liberty for all while holding human beings in bondage. The John Dickinson Plantation tells the stories of the Dickinson family; and the tenant farmers; indentured servants; and the free and enslaved Black men, women and children who lived, worked and died on the plantation.

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