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An Inspirational Book Of Wilmington Delaware’s East Side

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The book “African Americans of Wilmington’s East Side” by Hara Wright-Smith, Ph.D. should get some recognition throughout the city of Wilmington and the State Of Delaware during Woman’s History Month.
It chronicles “Wilmington’s East Side as the oldest residential community in the city. The first Swedish colony settled there in the 1600s, and over time, Jewish, Polish, and African American people followed.”

By the mid-1950s, the East Side emerged as a predominantly Black, achievement-oriented community–a place where working-class families, Black-owned businesses, and Black doctors, lawyers, teachers, musicians, and community leaders lived, worshipped, and worked together amid segregation.

Among Eastside’s historic landmarks are Howard High School, People’s Settlement Association, Walnut Street Y, St. Michael’s School and Nursery, Clifford Brown Walk, Louis Redding House, and a host of multi-denominational churches. Situated in an urban setting east of downtown, the East Side is walking distance from the central business district, small retail establishments, and employers.

The author of the book, Dr. Wright-Smith, was born and raised in New Castle County, Delaware. As a community development professional, she earned her doctorate and master’s degrees in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania and focused her doctoral dissertation on the East Side, which inspired her interest in preserving this rich history of Black life, heritage, and legacy.

The author takes the reader on a photographic journey, documenting 60 years of everyday life from research, archives, privately-held collections, personal family albums, and interviews.

As a Wilmington native, I was amazed to see the history and how our ancestors lived and thrived. It was amazing to see that Wilmington, in some ways, had a mini “Black Wall Street” just like the one in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 20th century.

To look at Wilmington’s Eastside today you can’t help but imagine what the Eastside was like back then, and although the City is trying to make improvements, you can feel the emptiness throughout the area which once was a thriving black community.

Hopefully, the Eastside will once again be a community that grew and flourished as a Black economy and cultural mecca in the city of Wilmington.

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