Coming Soon!

This research project celebrates Delaware's rich queer heritage, thanks to extensive research, contributions from LGBTQ+ organizations, private collections, and personal oral interviews. Stay tuned for updates and additional content showcasing the state's LGBTQ+ history.

Collage of black and white portrait's of queer people, multiple different ages and time period throughout history. Each person is outlined in a different brand color in order of red, yellow, teal, light purple, and dark purple in that order.

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Get a glimpse of what's in store...
Black and white collage of queer people multiple different ages and time periods throughout history.

Queer history started ALL throughout Delaware

This project is a year-long effort to highlight a handful of powerful stories about LGBTQ+ people, places, and objects throughout the centuries and across Delaware's three counties.

Additional pages and information will be added here in the coming months. It is the team's hope that this project will continue to grow even more in the future as we learn more about Delaware's LGBTQ+ history.

Rainbow gradient map of Delaware with heart shaped pin markers at: Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth, and Sussex County.
Delaware newspaper clipping announcing, State’s first Civil unions celebrated of two smiling women getting married.
What does LGBTQ+
Stand for?

An acronym for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer” with a "+” sign to recognize the limitless sexual orientations and gender identities used by members of the community.*

*Source: Human Rights Campaign Glossary of Terms

Lisa Goodman (left) and her partner, Drew Fennell, are photographed as they become the first couple in Delaware to unite under Delaware's civil union law in 2012.

We Have Always Been Here

Throughout Delaware history, stories of the successes and trials of the LGBTQ+ community have often been overlooked. "LGBTQ+ History of Delaware: We Have Always Been Here” is an effort to bring those stories to light through historical research and interviews with community members.

Finding confirmed accounts of non-conforming gender identities and queer love stories throughout Delaware's history can be challenging because of the dangers people faced for living openly as LGBTQ+. Yet, queer people and their impacts have remained a strong, driving force in Delaware communities and American culture. And there are so many stories left to tell.

What does Queer mean?

A term people often use to express a spectrum of identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream. Queer is often used as a catch-all to include many people, including those who do not identify as exclusively straight and/or people who have non-binary or gender-expansive identities. This term was previously used as a slur, but has been reclaimed by many facets of the LGBTQ+ movement.*

*Source: Human Rights Campaign Glossary of Terms

The founders of the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, partners Murray Archibald and Steve Elkins, at the first SUNDANCE festival in 1988.

Delaware's LGBTQ+ History:
People, Places, Documents, and More

Here is a sneak peek of just three of more than a dozen stories that will be launched on this site!
Black and white headshot Barbara Gittings smiling. Her typewriter sits on the desk in front of her.
Barbara Gittings at her typewriter in 1971. Image courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division.

Barbara Gittings

Lesbian Activist - Wilmington, DE - 1932 - 2007

Barbara Gittings, known to some as the “Mother of the Gay Rights Movement,” was one of the earliest lesbian activists in America. Gittings grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, before moving to Philadelphia in 1950 where she joined the Homophile Movement.

Her prolific activist career includes helping form the first gay caucus in any organization, lobbying to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association, publicly protesting for gay rights before the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, and serving on the board of directors of the first national LGBTQ+ rights organization, the National Gay Task Force.

Crowds of people walking around festival lawn at Legislative Hall. Colorful festival tents sit along the lawn.
Legislative Hall is Delaware's state capital building (seen in the background) and Legislative Mall, shown here, has become the outdoor site of LGBTQ+ festivals.

Legislative Hall and Legislative Mall

411 Legislative Avenue, Dover, DE - 1968 to Present

In 1933, Legislative Hall replaced the Old State House as the state capital building in downtown Dover where Delaware's General Assembly congregate over state-level legislation. The first bill granting civil rights to LGBTQ+ Delawareans was passed here in 1997. The nearby, outdoor space called Legislative Mall has hosted Delaware's annual Pride Festival since 2014, and the I Am Me Inc.'s Me Fest since 2022.

A vintage composite of Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Edwina Kruse.
This composite of Alice Dunbar-Nelson (left) and Edwina Kruse was created by combining images made available by the University of Delaware Special Collections, Alice Dunbar-Nelson Papers.

Edwina Kruse's Letters to Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Wilmington, DE - 1907

A selection of more than seventy letters from Edwina Kruse (1848-1930), Howard High School's first Black principal, sent to her lover, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, in 1907 shed light on their intimate relationship and details of their daily lives. The letters, as well as a transcript of Dunbar-Nelson's unpublished novel based on Kruse's life, were purchased by the University of Delaware Special Collections in 1985 and serve as important archival evidence of queer love between two women of color in the early twentieth century in Delaware.

Collage of black and white portrait's of queer people, multiple different ages and time period throughout history. Each person is outlined in a different brand color in order of red, yellow, teal, light purple, and dark purple in that order.