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Welcome to the New London Road Walking Tour. This tour will take you through the history and landscape of this community, which has a rich and intriguing past. The community primarily consists of New London Road and Cleveland Avenue, as well as Ray Street, Corbit Street, Church Street, Creek Road and Terry Manor. This historically African American community is bound on the South by the Rail Road tracks, near where you are probably standing now. Creek Road, or N. College Avenue as it is now known, forms the eastern boundary, White Clay Creek creates the northern boundary, and W. Main Street marks the Western limit. Patty Wilson remembers how the boundaries of the community were enforced,
"...once you got past the railroad tracks and as you went down Main St. Deer Park was just a number, one of a number of places you could not go. You could not go to Rhoade's drug store; there were plenty of places you could not go. Deer Park was probably the most egregious...."
Beyond any of these four boundaries were areas controlled completely by the white residents of Newark. But within these confines, a dynamic, friendly, and loving African American community emerged which was self sufficient and progressive. This walking tour will take you around the main streets of this historic community and share many of the stories and accomplishments that make the New London Road community so unique.
African American families have historically always occupied this particular section of land, since well before the Civil War. Delaware was unusually situated before the Civil War. It was technically a slave state, but by the start of the War, 90% of all African Americans in the state were free people, many slave owners having manumitted their slaves on matters of principle. Delaware did not secede from the Union at the start of the Civil War. What slavery was left in Delaware was abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment. Delaware then went on to become the only state in the tri-state area in which black men could own land, allowing for African American families to settle in the New London Road Community.
The roots of this particular community can be traced back at least to 1786 when the James family settled in Newark. As of the 1870 census, at least 21 families were living here, seven of whom owned land here before the Civil War. The names that date back to before the Civil War, can still be found among community members today, such as the Saunders family.
Over the years, different groups of African Americans have made their homes in the New London Road Community, creating layers of settlement and, therefore, layers of history. But as new people have come in, as the result of migrations out of the south, the Chrysler plant opening in Newark creating more jobs, or local military bases recruiting new men, the community was always a welcoming place that embraced new residents.
There are a number of elements that make up this community that are essential to understanding its history and dynamics, and of which the community is very proud. These elements will be expanded upon throughout the tour, but they deserve mention now.
Religion and attending church have always been incredibly important to the community. Three main churches have existed in this community and all three exist today. They are Pilgrim Baptist, which you will see next, Mt. Zion UAME church and St. John African Methodist Church.
In addition to religion, education has always been considered of the utmost importance within the community. The city of Newark, until the mid-20th Century, did not provide basic city services to this area. This community was not really included in any school district until the 1950’s.
Finally, the self-sufficiency of the community is the thing of which the community is perhaps most proud. During times when black members of the community were not welcome in the shops or clubs on Main Street, this community has always been able to provide food and opportunities for itself. From picking blackberries in Green’s Field, to raising chickens on different properties, to having a community pool at Bell’s Funeral Home, to Bobby Saunders opening a pool hall, this community has never let the prejudice of the rest of the city stop it from taking care of its needs and desires.
There are a few memories from community members you should carry with you as you walk through this neighborhood. These memories explain what the community was about and what it was like growing up and living here. George Wilson, one of the biggest figures of the community, describes how it felt to be black and live in Newark
“If you were Black and lived in Newark, can you imagine being a child back then? Where there is a movie you aren’t allowed to go to it; physical things around and you are not allowed to go in. There was a swimming pool around and you were not allowed to go in it. All of the things that were good were reserved for White people and we were non-people – we were Black.”
And Arnold Saunders explains how the community functioned:
“The neighborhood was tight. We loved one another. Not that families didn’t have problems every once in awhile with other families, but we grew up loving one another in The Village. If somebody was sick, everybody turned out to bring them a pot of soup or clean their houses. If somebody had a fire, if somebody had a piece of furniture or something to give them, or get them back up on their feet.”
Now that you are ready to experience the New London Road Community, please walk up New London Road to Prayer Temple Ministries, which used to be Pilgrim Baptist Church, at 49 New London Road.