Library Acquired Iron Hill Oral History Collection

iron hill

    School children and their teacher on the steps of Iron Hill School     #112C, near Newark, Delaware, early 1920s.

    The University of Delaware Library Special Collections Department has acquired the Iron Hill Oral History Collection, a gift from the Delaware Academy of Science Iron Hill Museum. The project was initiated in 2003 by oral historian Roberta Perkins and Laura Lee, director of the Iron Hill Museum, near Newark, Delaware, in order to document the history of the Iron Hill School #112C, a former African American one-room schoolhouse from the days of segregation.

    Arrangements for the gift were made by L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin, Librarian in the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library.

    The schoolhouse, in operation from 1923 until 1964, is now home to the Iron Hill Museum, operated by the Delaware Academy of Science. The Building is one of 89 rural schools contructed through the philanthropy of Pierre S. du Pont for the community, and one of only a few that are still architecturally intact.

    As director of the Iron Hill Museum, Laura Lee met many former alumni who would visit the museum and share their school memories. In order to preserve these stories, she enlisted the help of oral historian Roberta Perkins and transcriber Marcia Adams to establish an oral history project. The project received partial funding from the Delaware Academy of Science, Delaware Humanities Forum, and Delaware Heritage Commission. In addition, Rohm & Haas Community Partnership Initiative provided funding for a school outreach program featuring the oral histories.

    The Iron Hill oral histories also proved to be an invaluable resource for Lee and Perkins, who contributed a chapter on Newark’s African-American history to Histories of Newark, 1758-2008 (Newark, Del.: Wallflowers Press, 2008), a community project commissioned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Newark’s first town charter. In the course of researching related sources in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library, Lee became aware of other oral history collections and made the decision to preserve and share the Iron Hill project by donating it to the Library.

    The Iron Hill Oral History Collection, 2003-2008, consists of 24 interviews recorded on 44 audio-cassettes. The interviews were conducted by Roberta Perkins and Laura Lee. The interviewees include fifteen Iron Hill School alumni, two parents of alumni, one teacher from Townsend, and three alumni of other du Pont schools in Hockessin and Milton (Delaware). Also included is an interview with an alumnus of the white Pleasant Valley School, which was located less than a mile from Iron Hill, and a Conowingo, Maryland, alumna. The collection is supplemented by three interviews of long-time white residents of the Iron Hill area.

    The interviews include but are not limited to discussions of community and school life, relationships between the segregated Newark-area schools, civil rights, transportation issues to and from school, employment, church life, and political vote buying. Transcripts of the interviews accompany the collection and are available for review. Transcription is an ongoing process and more transcripts will be added to the collection in the near future. A finding aid to the collection is available from the Special Collections Web page at [].

About the Special Collections Department
    Holdings of the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library include books, manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs, broadsides, periodicals, pamphlets, ephemera, and realia from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century. The collections complement the general collections of the Library with particular strengths in the subject areas of the arts; English, Irish, and American literature; history and Delawareana; horticulture; and history of science and technology.


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