Collection close-up: Educator Susan Browne

By Elizabeth Coulter, curator of collections for the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs 

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs currently has around 104,000 objects in the Historic Collection, among them is now a small collection of newly accessioned objects from long-time Kent County educator Susan Browne. 

These objects, which entered the collection after Browne participated in the DuPont Colored School Oral History Project spearheaded by the Division and Preservation Delaware Inc., encompass parts of Browne’s career in Delaware during the mid-20th century. Browne spent most of her life living and working in Kent County.

When asked about the impact school had on her life she said, “Well, I always wanted an education; so therefore, I got some of the things I wanted. You know, I loved children and I always wanted to be an elementary school teacher. So, after I finished high school, I stayed out for a year working, trying to make a little money, and then I went back for college as a day student.” She graduated from Delaware State College in 1945 and became a teacher. 

Susan Browne’s college graduating class photograph. This photograph was taken by prolific photographer, G. Marshall Wilson (American, 1906-1998) who worked for Ebony magazine for many years. He was at the beginning of his career working in Philadelphia at the time this photograph was taken. Susan Browne recalled the students in the picture. Back Row: J. Bedford, J. Horner, N. Link, M. Weston, E. Guy, Susan Browne, S.Y. Broaine, E. Palmer, Marie Fraser, Edith Pridgen, Manley Price, William Fountain. Middle Row: M. Waters, Ola Tilden, Ann Bell, M. Fisher, Landrum Neal, E. Chambers, M. Bardley, unknown, unknown. Front Row: E. Collins, F. Mitchell, B. Gibbs, D. Casney, unknown, P. Mitchell, L. Bleen, A. Cobbs. G. Marshall Wilson (American, 1906-1998), Photograph, 1945, 2021.007.004, In Memory of Susan Young Browne, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Following graduation, she taught for a year and three months at John Wesley Elementary School near Milford.  Then, for about 10 years, she taught at Lockwood School in Hartly, a one-room school for grades one through six. The photograph of her students outside on the steps of Lockwood Elementary was taken on a day they took a field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo, which they planned for the students every year. 

Susan Browne’s students from Lockwood Elementary. Photograph, 1952, 2021.007.009, In Memory of Susan Young Browne, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Her high school honored her with the title of Ms. Alumni 1953, and she was given a sash and tiara for a parade through the school. She taught for 30 years during her career. Her story provides a window into the history of education in the mid-twentieth century in Delaware. To learn more about Browne’s story and the DuPont Colored School Oral History Project, please visit Preservation Delaware.  

The Division currently accepts donations to the collection. The curatorial team has actively sought out objects that represent important moments in recent history.

For more information on Delaware’s DuPont Schools, including Preservation Delaware’s report on the Oral History Project and an architectural survey conducted by the University of Delaware’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design, click here.

Elizabeth Coulter (she/her)

As the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Curator of Collections, Elizabeth Coulter participates in developing and installing exhibitions, developing and presenting educational programs, providing access to the collections, collaborating with partnering organizations and expanding the profile and use of the collections. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art history and American studies from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in decorative arts history from George Mason University and the Smithsonian Associates.

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