Closed - for reference only

To view the online exhibition, Forging Faith, Building Freedom, click here.

Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980, opened at the Delaware History Museum on September 27, 2013 and closed June 14, 2014, celebrated two important anniversaries. Two hundred years ago, in 1813, Peter Spencer founded the African Union Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States. The next year, he started the August Quarterly, the nation’s oldest African American festival.

In addition to Peter Spencer, Forging Faith, Building Freedom will honor Absalom Jones, the first black Episcopal priest in the US; Richard Allen, founder of the AME denomination; and Samuel Cornish, founder of the first black Presbyterian church in New York City and an editor of Freedom’s Journal, the nation’s first black newspaper. As developers of independent African American religious institutions, these four remarkable Delawareans asserted their people’s right to liberty, autonomy, and equality. Their actions challenged the United States to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.

Through objects, documents, and images, the exhibition explores the diverse faith experiences and institutions that developed from these beginnings. Historically, black faith communities have addressed many needs beyond the spiritual. They have been a key factor in education, community development, and the continuing struggle for equality for people who lacked other institutions. In the absence of other avenues for leadership, the black minister assumed many roles in addition to the spiritual. Faith communities also offered opportunities for leadership and participation to laypeople whose talents were not recognized in the mainstream community. The exhibition will introduce Michael Sterling of Wilmington—a modest man in the eyes of the world who lived a rich and useful life through service to Bethel AME Church.

This exhibition has been developed in full collaboration with the faith community in Delaware and Delaware churches, private lenders, other public collections and Delaware Historical Society collections, provide the first public presentation of a rich array of heritage materials for the exhibition. Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin of Vanderbilt University, a specialist in Peter Spencer and his churches, serves as consultant historian.

To view the online exhibition, Forging Faith, Building Freedom, click here.

"Forging Faith, Building Freedom: Black Churches and the Circle of Culture of Delaware" by Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin, Department of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University was given on September 26, 2013 at the opening of "Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware" (can be viewed below).

History Matters!
Click here to read about Forging Faith, Building Freedom and
the importance of African American churches in Delaware
through WDDE 9.11 FM's online Report


Exhibition design and fabrication is by the exhibits staff of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

This program is partially funded by a grant from the Delaware Humanities Forum,
a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Forging Faith, Building Freedom
Open to the Public: September 27, 2013 - Summer 2014

Please click here for a printable PDF
version of the Forging Faith brochure.

Delaware History Museum
504 N. Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801
Wednesday - Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
(302) 656-0637(302) 656-0637
Cost: Members, Free; Adults: $6; Senior (over 65), Students, and Military Personnel, $5;
Youth (3-18 years), $4; Children (under 3), FREE
Group Tours available (reservations required): (302) 655-7161(302) 655-7161

Delaware History Museum   |  Mitchell Center for African American Heritage   |   Old Town Hall   |   Research Library   |   Willingtown Square    |   Read House & Gardens  

(302) 655-7161
505 N. Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801
copyright 2019

The Delaware Historical Society is the statewide, non-profit organization that explores, preserves, shares, and promotes Delaware history, heritage, and culture to strengthen our community.