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Hockessin's place in Delaware's fight for civil rights

Wm. Shawn Weigel * Delaware
shawn.weigel@doverpost.com
The Community News

One of the early battles in the fight for civil rights happened in Hockessin, and stands today as a historic landmark that honors the struggle.

Hockessin School #107C – otherwise known as the Hockessin Colored School – sits along Millcreek Road, a small red brick building that Pierre S. du Pont built in the 1920s to replace the original wood frame colored school.

For years, #107C was the only local school for African American students until the 1950s, when two landmark cases were filed in Delaware Chancery Court - Belton v. Gebhart in Claymont, and Bulah v. Gebhart in Hockessin.

Both cases revolved around the parents of African American children wanting a better education for their children, although Bulah – a Caucasian Woman with an African American child – initially sought to have her daughter Sarah be spared of a long walk to school by riding the bus with Caucasian kids.

At the time, Sarah was walking the roughly two miles from the family vegetable stand at the corner of Valley and Limestone roads to #107C past Grant Ave. on Millcreek Road.

After enlisting the help of Delaware’s only African American lawyer Louis Redding, Bulah was eventually convinced to plead her case before the Chancery Court.

The case eventually became part of the “Brown v. Board of Education” Supreme Court ruling that effectively ended school segregation in 1954.

Since its days as a colored school, the building has fallen into semi-disrepair, and several repair and expansion efforts by various organizations have fallen by the wayside – including an attempt to create a “Hockessin Community Center.”

The community center sign remains, its paint faded, its words obscured by trees and overgrowth.

The Delaware Public Archives installed a commemorative plaque on the front of the building in 2004.