This year and 2014 marked two important landmarks in Delaware history: the bicentennial of Peter Spencer’s founding of the nation’s first independent black denomination, the African Union Methodist church, in 2013, followed by the bicentennial of the August Quarterly festival in 2014. Three other Delawareans, Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, and Samuel Cornish, also played key roles in the development of the black faith tradition in the United States. In honor of this, the Society presented Delaware’s first comprehensive exhibition on the history of African American faith in the state, Forging Faith, Building Freedom.
This exhibition was developed with the collaboration of many churches, organizations, and individuals in the African American community who graciously and generously shared their stories and historical treasures. One special friend of the project was the late Charles Marshall of Dover, the grandson of Rev. Henry Marshall, the founding pastor of Union Missionary Baptist Church in Dover, and his wife, Anna Marshall. Charles Marshall lent his grandparents’ tombstones to the exhibition, knowing the need to preserve and share the stories of Delaware’s African American history. He was so enthusiastic about the exhibition that he chartered a bus to bring family and friends to the opening and also organized a visit of over 100 people in February. Every exhibition should have friends like Charles Marshall! Unfortunately, he passed away recently. He will not be able to see the exhibition catalog that will be published in early 2015, but his support will continue to inspire the Delaware Historical Society.
To see the online version of Forging Faith, Building Freedom, visit http://dehistory.org/online-exhibitions-collections-museum/forging-faith.