Since 1933, the governors of Delaware have proclaimed December 7 as Delaware Day in honor of that day in 1787 when Delaware became the first state to ratify the federal Constitution, thus making Delaware the first state in the new nation. Traditionally, the five signers have been the focus of Delaware Day.
In 2020, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is expanding the Delaware Day story by presenting video profiles on five different people who contributed to Delaware’s early history and whose stories also deserve to be told and preserved. One video will be released each day at 3 p.m. from December 2 to 7, 2020.
Dinah was a skilled spinner who was enslaved for over 26 years. She was held in bondage primarily by different men of the Dickinson family. Freed alongside her children in John Dickinson’s 1786 manumission document, Dinah eventually married Peter Patten, a free Black tenant of John Dickinson. The latest record of Dinah dates to 1810.
James Summers was born a free Black man in the later part of the 18th century. He married an enslaved woman, meaning his children were enslaved at birth. By 1797, he had worked out an arrangement with the family that held his children in bondage and was able to sign the manumission document setting them free in the Recorder of Deeds office in the State House (now Old State House) in Dover, Delaware.
No online information is available at this time. Research continues by division staff and the descendants of James Summers.
Richard Allen was born enslaved on Feb. 14, 1760. As a young child Allen and his family were sold to Stokely Sturgis of Dover, Delaware. Sturgis permitted Allen to attend religious meetings and, later, to purchase his own freedom. Allen joined the Methodist Church and preached in Delaware and adjoining states. He was a founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church which was established in Philadelphia in 1816. Allen died on March 26, 1831.
Warner Mifflin was a giant of an 18th century Quaker abolitionist. He petitioned legislatures. He wrote to congressmen, governors and presidents. His personal beliefs about the ills of slavery led him on a crusade from North Carolina to New England to end the practice. He believed it was a blight on the nation and that America would pay for the sin of slavery if it was not abolished.
In 2014, archaeologists working at the Avery’s Rest site west of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware excavated 11 human burials. Scientific and DNA analysis determined that three of the individuals were of African origin. Historical context suggests these were Black people enslaved by John Avery. One burial, dated between 1674 and 1714, was that of an unnamed Black male who, at death, was between the ages of 32 and 42. The division is committed to restoring the dignity of these individuals and their rightful place in the history of Delaware.
In 2020, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs expanded the Delaware Day story by presenting video profiles on five different people who contributed to Delaware’s early history and whose stories also deserve to be told and preserved. This video shares the stories of Dinah, James Summers, Bishop Richard Allen, Warner Mifflin and an unidentified black male buried at Avery’s Rest in Sussex County.