Image Courtesy of the Delaware History Museum
Peter Spencer started the August Quarterly celebration in Wilmington.
A gallery exhibit that honored the faith experiences of African-Americans in the First State may have come and gone at the Delaware History Museum, but the history lives on, thanks to a special online exhibition and a book to be released this month. “Forging Faith, Building Freedom” was added to the Delaware Historical Society’s website about a year ago. A book that mirrors the exhibit, published by the Delaware Heritage Commission, will be released this month, says Connie Cooper, chief curator at the historical society, who curated the exhibit and penned an article for the book. “Forging Faith” chronicles how pioneers like Peter Spencer contributed to the development of African-American religion, not only in Delaware, but throughout the country. Spencer founded the African Union Methodist Church—the first independent black religious denomination in the U.S—in 1813. It was through such churches that blacks began the fight for equality and justice. “These are people for whom white society didn’t want them to do anything like that,” says Cooper. “We were just getting going as a country, and they were saying, ‘We are here, too. We want to be part of this nation.’” Cooper says it took more than a year to build the collection for the original exhibit. Contributions came from an impressive list of people and institutions. “It is a true community project,” she says. “It would not have been possible without the participation of black churches, organizations and many individuals. And a book, especially, will mean that this lives forever.” (www.dehistory.org)