Black History at Hagley

Below are links to exhibits, projects, interviews, and articles related to Black American history at the Hagley Library. We are proud of the work we have done to highlight issues of diversity in our collections and look forward to doing more. 


In 1965, Rosetta McKinley Henderson became the first Black woman chemist hired by the DuPont Company in Wilmington, Delaware. 

When Dr. Wesley Memeger Jr. started at DuPont in 1964, he was only the fourth Black American with a doctorate in chemistry to join the company. 

Robert Smalls (1839-1915) was born into slavery in South Carolina, freed himself, and became an American politician, publisher, businessman, and maritime pilot. Hagley Historian Lucas Clawson discusses the extraordinary life of Robert Smalls and how Samuel Francis du Pont brought him into the US Navy. The third installment of “Tales of the Talented Tenth,” a graphic novel series focused on the adventures of Black Americans in action, tells the story of how Robert Smalls pulled off one of the most daring and largest heists of the Civil War.   


A Separate Place: The Schools P.S. du Pont Built (2001) tells the surprising story of the connection between Pierre S. du Pont's philanthropy and efforts by Black Americans to obtain quality education. 

Slide films produced by Cinecraft Productions titled "The Challenge for Cleveland" (1948) promoted work emphasizing the adverse effects of discrimination in employment. 

 "Checking Out of Urban America: Supermarkets, Segregation, and Late-20th Century Racial Capitalism" seeks to transform our understanding of why and how supermarkets abandoned Black and working-class neighborhoods in U.S. cities. 


Interview with Danya Pilgrim about her book project "Gastronomic Alchemy: How Black Philadelphia Caterers Transformed Taste into Capital, 1790-1925." Pilgrim reveals the development and efflorescence of a Philadelphia catering industry owned and operated by Black American waiters, brokers, cooks, and others. 

Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919) was "the first Black woman millionaire in America" and made her fortune thanks to her homemade line of hair care products for Black women. 

Jessica Levy on Black Empowerment in business in the 1960s and 1970s and efforts to export this approach to other countries, specifically apartheid-era South Africa. 

Learn about the patent process and Black inventors. Although we have not identified any patent models from Black inventors, we acknowledge their contributions to our nation's innovation.


During the American Civil War, Henry du Pont, President of the DuPont Company, played an important role in keeping the state of Delaware loyal to the Union and supplying propellants to the U.S. Armed Services.  

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817), the father of DuPont Company founder E.I. du Pont, held a hard line against slavery. The du Pont family in Delaware carried on P.S. du Pont de Nemours's anti-slavery views

In this edition of Live with the Hagley Historian, Lucas Clawson discusses Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont's first-hand experience with slavery, the concept of ex-slaves as "contrabands" of war, the road to the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment. 


Mary Hazard Collins (1893-1981) worked in the powder yards during WW I and later operated elevators in the Du Pont building. Her interview details the explosion of 1918, various interactions with du Pont family members, and a car accident that cost her sight in one eye.  

Wesley Memeger, Jr., joined the DuPont Company after finishing his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry at Adelphi University in 1966. This 2014 interview details his contribution to streamlining the synthesis of Kevlar. 

John Gilbert Braun was a powder mill worker at the Belin Works in Moosic, Pennsylvania, who eventually became a foreman on the powder line. 

William Buchanan’s father worked in the Hagley powder yards. His oral history covers the breadth of the experience but also notes seeing the 1903 lynching of George F. White, accused of raping and murdering a schoolteacher. 

Dr. James West discusses his research on Seagram advertising in Black American publications such as Ebony Magazine in this interview. 


In the 1890s, Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company employed Black Americans to work alongside its White labor force, a practice very out of the ordinary among Philadelphia industries at the time. The Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company motion picture films show the various stages of steel production and include footage of an integrated workforce working together on the shop floor. 

Lukens Steel Company hired Black American workers beginning in the 19th century and served as a landing place for many southern and eastern European immigrants in the early 20th century. The company’s employee newsletter is available online.  

The Antietam Woolen Manufacturing Company records describe the difficulties faced by the hastily formed industries that appeared in the wake of the War of 1812. The records span from the company's formation in 1814 to its dissolution in 1816 and include useful data on hiring the firm's superintendent, rules for Black and White workers, wages, and the use of child labor.   


Lois K. Herr was a prominent advocate of equal rights for women in the workplace and a party to a significant legal victory securing greater equity for women in AT&T's Bell System in the early 1970s. The collection documents her role as an important campaigner for civil rights in the business world and her interest in her predecessors in the suffragist and feminist movements of the early twentieth century.

NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) Law Department, 1924-2011 The Law Department is one of the oldest, continuous departments in the organization. The materials in this series include Law Department publications, briefs, opinions, related correspondence, reports, and court documents. Topics include the Americans with Disabilities Act, anti-trust, Civil Rights Act, discrimination, ergonomics, intellectual property, lobbying, lockout-tagout, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), occupational exposure, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, product liability, punitive damages, strikes, and women in the workforce (including maternity and family leave). 

NAM Industrial Relations Department, 1895-1998 collected materials on a wide variety of subjects, including child labor, the Civil Rights Act, collective bargaining, drug testing, fair labor standards, family and medical leave, health care, immigration, the "mature worker," plant closings, social security, striker replacement, and unemployment. 

The records of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR) contain historical evidence of Black Americans fighting discrimination in the immediate aftermath of World War I.  


Bauduy family papers:  Peter Bauduy (1769-1833), a French refugee from Santo Domingo, was a partner of Eleuthère Irénée "E.I." du Pont (1771-1834) in the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Bauduy's son Ferdinand Bauduy (1781-1814) married du Pont's daughter Victorine du Pont (1782-1861). Peter Bauduy, his wife Thèrése Jeanne Julienne "Juliette" des Chapelles (1773-1837), and their family had moved to Cuba in 1819. Materials in this collection give an account of life in Cuba on a sugar plantation, the religious and social customs of the people, the conditions of the enslaved people, and descriptions of the country. 

The Lainé family was related to Peter Bauduy (1769-1833) a French refugee from Santo Domingo who was a business partner of Eleuthère Irénée "E.I." du Pont (1771-1834) of the DuPont Company. The Laine family papers cover several generations and include a diary from Pierre-Francois Lainé's (1775-1846) captivity in Russia, Francois Damas Laine'ś (1823-1901) diary from his visit to France, Marie Lainé Santa Maria's (1866-1961) memoirs as a child living on a sugar plantation in Cuba, translation, and typescripts of the diaries, and genealogical information. 

The diary of Emma Edwards Holmes (1838-1910) captures life in Charleston, South Carolina, and its environs during the Civil War. While it mentions political events and battles, it is most useful for its description of social and family life as it deteriorated under the privations of war. For lack of money, Holmes was obliged to take a position as a governess and tutor. She wrote of her work with the Ladies Charleston Volunteer Aid Society, and the plundering by Union troops near the close of the war. The diary, while outlining war preparation and the early part of the war, also presents a fascinating picture of life in the antebellum South and her experiences as she and her family find themselves squarely in the path of Sherman's armies and early Reconstruction. 

Martha Brown Ogle Callender Forman (1788-1864) was the second wife of Continental Army general Thomas Marsh Forman (1758-1845). Her personal diaries describe the daily life of enslavers and the enslaved at Rose Hill, a Cecil County, Maryland plantation. 

Robert Coleman (1748-1825) was a prominent ironmaster in Pennsylvania and acquired Elizabeth Furnace near Manheim, Pennsylvania. The Robert Coleman papers consist of correspondence, receipts, and miscellany, mostly involving land purchases. A portion of Coleman's investments lists the purchase of two Black enslaved people. 

The Little Britain General Store daybook and ledgers give a detailed picture of production and consumption patterns of both Black and White residents in a well-developed rural economy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

 Joseph H. Hanson (1820-1858) was a farmer in St. Georges Hundred near Delaware City, Delaware. The Joseph H. Hanson farm account book is a combined ledger and memorandum book covering the operation of Hanson's farm and employing tenants and/or farm laborers. There are accounts of individuals employed, primarily boys and young White men but also some women and Black Americans, with lists of chores performed. 


In this 1956 letter from consumer Edna R. White of Houston, Texas, to the Aughinbaugh Canning Co. of Biloxi, Mississippi, White complains about the product's brand name changing from "Nigger Head Oysters" to "Negro Head Oysters." The letter includes extensive racist content. White blames the name change on the influence of the NAACP, which was, in fact, correct. 

Kennard-Pyle Company was a department store known for its women's clothing. By the late twentieth century, it was one of Delaware's oldest independent clothing retailers. The collection includes two programs for minstrel shows by employees in 1925 and 1926.