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Special Collections: African American Studies Research Guide

Delaware Federal Writers' Project


Established in 1935, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) was part of the larger economic stimulus efforts of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), developed as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's American New Deal. In collaboration with state and local governments, writers for the FWP compiled local histories, personal narratives and oral histories, and ethnographies, as well as demographic, economic, agricultural and geographic information and statistics for all 48 states. Much of the FWP was used in publishing the American Guide series, such as Delaware: A Guide to the First State (1938). Another project, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, is considered one of the most enduring and noteworthy accomplishments of the WPA, which collected over 2,300 interviews and first person accounts by formerly enslaved people. Born in Slavery is an archival collection housed at the Library of Congress (see below).

The Delaware Federal Writer’s Project collection is an archive of reports, articles, photographs, and notes about the First State. Submitted by numerous writers, topics include historical, economic, agricultural, sociological, and cultural commentaries about Delaware and its residents. The articles provide informative perspectives from the 1930s on race, racial segregation, and its impact on African Americans in Delaware.

The assembled collection was bound into 48 volumes, in no particular order, with an index volume. The index reflects language of the period, such as "Negro, Negroes" and is full of filing idiosyncracies. Researchers should be mindful of how explicit and implicit racial prejudice and racial segregation may have influenced the writers' representation of Black people and their culture. The list seen below is a sample of topics related  to African Americans. To promote scanability here, some terms have been inverted from the original index, i.e. "Evidence of abolition and public school sentiment" has been inverted for this list to "Abolition and public school sentiment, evidence of."

All volumes of the collection, as well as the index, are available as PDFs through UDSpace, the University of Delaware's Institutional Repository.

The Delaware Federal Writers Project collection contains information on a wide range of Delaware topics. Please ask for assistance if you need help searching its contents.


  • Abolitionist and public school sentiment, evidence of in vol. 2, p. 373-374
  • Advertisement of sale of Negro Children, v. 11, p. 195; vol. 12, p. 227
  • Anderson, William Spencer, a Negro in vol. 47, p. 27
  • Convicts, last sale of, in New Castle County in vol. 39, p. 409-410
  • Cuffee, Paul in vol. 29, p.199-200; vol. 47, p. 41-42
  • Cannon vs. Stuart in vol. 29, p. 104-105
  • Deed of manumission in vol. 3, p. 328-329; 330-331; vol. 12, p. 163-164
  • Deed of sale for four Negroes (1805) in vol. 12, p. 214-215;
  • Delaware slave's lament in vol. 28, p. 307-308.
  • Delaware Industrial School for Colored Girls in vol. 32, p. 326 and 352-354
  • Dover Negro in vol. 29, p. 214
  • Education, beginning of, in Delaware in vol. 15, p. 136-137 and 184-185
  • Free Schools in Delaware 1792-1830 in vol. 5, 141-177
  • Industrial Schools for Colored Girls in vol. 29, p. 307-308
  • Negro and the courts in vol. 22, p. 122-128
  • The Negro in Delaware legal status in vol. 29, p. 169-177
  • Negro in Delaware subject of kidnapping in vol. 28, p. 287-289
  • Negro Voodoo in vol. 48, p. 95-100
  • Old Negro Cemetery vol. 46, p. 202.
  • Slavery, beginning of, in vol. 28, p. 300-302
  • Slavery, does it yet exist in Delaware, 1868 in vol. 28, p. 286
  • Slavery, objections to in vol. 28, p. 156-162
  • See "Slavery" in the series index for more information
  • Slavery, social aspects in vol. 28, 152-153
  • Slaves, early black and white in vol. 21m p. 300-305
  • Slaves, exporting of, prohibited in vol. 48, p. 353-353
  • St. Michael's Day Nursery for Negroes in vol. 6, p. 341
  • Survey of Sub-standard Negroes in vol. 22, p. 115-121
  • The underground railroad in Delaware in vol. 28, 318-395
  • Underground Railroad by William Still, extracts from the  in vol. 20, p. 359-396
  • Whipping Post, Delaware in vol. 17, p. 250-258
  • Whipping Post in vol. 1, p. 319; vol. 9, p. 200-201

Links to the Delaware Federal Writer's Project and related sources