Primary Source

Delaware School Alumni Interviews [Video Documentary]


In 1954, the Supreme Court declared the "separate but equal" doctrine unconstitutional in Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka. Years earlier, however, Pierre S. du Pont, President of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. and General Motors in the 1920s, took bold steps to modernize the education system for African Americans. Du Pont drew attention to the problem of inadequate education by funding school surveys, supporting legislation, and ultimately by donating over $6 million to build new state-of-the-art schools. He also led efforts to gain community support for improving African American children's school access and attendance in a time of severe discrimination and segregation.

This clip discusses the impact of newly-built du Pont schools on improving the learning environment for young people in Delaware. Talented teachers provided the heart of these schools, and alumni describe the commitment and sacrifices that teachers made to ensure that their students learned. The clip also highlights ongoing obstacles placed in the way of African American education by segregation and discrimination. Two former students describe used books, supplies, and equipment. Older schoolboys, for example, had to walk to the white schools and pick up used books, which they received along with rolls of cellophane ["Scotch"] tape to repair torn pages. One student describes the used pencils—some sharpened down to a nub—that the African American schools received.


A Separate Place: the Schools P.S. Du Pont Built DVD (Wilmington, DE: Hagley Museum and Library, 2003): 7:45 to 10:58. Copies available from the Hagley Museum and Library or 302-658-2400. See also A Separate Place teaching packet .

How to Cite This Source

"Delaware School Alumni Interviews [Video Documentary]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #259, (accessed January 29, 2022). Annotated by Kelly Schrum and Susan Douglass