Lauren Magee / THE REVIEW
The University’s Arts Protection Department now enables Newark residents to get a glimpse of the city’s history on their New London Road Walking Tour. The tour has 12 stops, each with its own story.
The New London Road area, originally referred to as New London Avenue, is a historically African American community in Newark, according to Mary Torbey, director of the collections maintenance team at the Newark History Museum.
“Whenever there were restrictions in many neighborhoods that kept African Americans from buying houses in those areas, the New London Road area was always a place to buy property and build a community,” said Torbey. “And it’s historic too because of the community they built and the fact that African Americans were excluded from many opportunities in the city so they created their own opportunities in their neighborhood.”
The Newark History Museum also has an exhibit on New London Road that includes items such as an original street sign that reads “New London Avenue”, a Rose Bowl jacket owned by Frank Cephous, a former soccer player, that has a teacher’s credentials who worked in separate school and much more.
The tour includes stops at the three major churches in the area – Pilgrim Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Church, and St. John Church. According to some residents, churches were a staple food for the ward and hosted events such as church events and a Bible school for the youth of the ward.
Another stop on the tour is the former “New London Avenue Colored School”, which was the only elementary school for black students between 1922 and 1958. This school is said to be “the oldest testimony to this community’s commitment to education” on the tour’s website. The school functioned not only as a place of education, but also as a meeting place for the children of the community. After 1958 the school closed and is currently known as the George Wilson Community Center.
One of the other stops on the tour is Terry Manor, a division of homes that include Terry Lane, Kennard Drive, and Wilson Street, built by George Wilson. Wilson was the first and only African American to be elected to Newark City Council, and is believed to have been one of the “most influential men in this neighborhood and Newark City,” according to the tour’s website.
There are several other stops on the tour, all of which are rich in history.
Torbey said that walking tours are a great way to learn about history as seeing something face to face is far more powerful than just seeing a picture.
“When you see something face to face, you immediately associate the image of the thing with the story that you are told about the people and the story and what happened in that place,” said Torbey.
The hiking tour initiative was largely supported by Dr. Vicki Cassman, who passed away on August 6, 2020. One of her colleagues, Dr. Debra Hess Norris said that Cassman is committed to outreach and community engagement. It is the first tour of its kind operated by the department.
“[Cassman] realized that the community members had so many stories to tell and this would be a wonderful opportunity for our students to engage with the community, ”said Norris. “And it sparked all sorts of other initiatives to gather community members to talk about the family treasures and the preservation of their belongings, which they had saved and which they valued.”
The team collected information mainly through interviews with residents and family members.
“It’s been a very close working relationship with the community and I know Vicki Cassman has gotten very close to many members of the community and has worked with them for many, many years to develop all kinds of initiatives that she really focuses on pleased, “said Norris.
Norris said this was a fantastic opportunity for the students involved as well.
“I know the students involved found this work incredibly rewarding. You know, they learned about our history and worked together as a community to study that history and plan for the future. This is so important to all of us – in Newark, Wilmington, across the state of Delaware, in the US and around the world, ”said Norris.
The New London Road Walking Tour keeps the history of the area alive through the interactivity and depth of research conducted at each stop. Torbey discussed how well the tour was done and how it was completed at a great time to capture some things that were recently torn down.
“So much of it has only disappeared in the last few years. We lost most of the houses on New London Road, ”said Torbey. “It has become a brand new development in the last few years, and with so much of the neighborhood’s history disappearing, it’s really important that people remember what happened here, the community that grew up in this area and to the people who lived there who contributed so much to Newark. “
To join the tour and view more information, please visit: https://www.artcons.udel.edu/outreach/diversity-initiatives/new-london-road