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Burial ground identified at John Dickinson Plantation in Dover

Delaware Public Media

Archaeological fieldwork unearths what is believed to be a burial ground at the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover.

The burial ground found on the 450-acres owned by the Dickinson family earlier this month likely holds African Americans who lived, worked and died there - including enslaved people.


“This is a very powerful moment for Delaware’s history," said Tim Slavin, director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. "We’ve been involved in a research project for the past two years to try to identify the slave burial ground on this site. And I think we have finally found it.”

Slavin says the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs worked on the dig.


“It is a very compelling find because slaves were people - who quite honestly - were not meant to be remembered as one of my colleagues has said," said Slavin. "And this find - of this burial ground  -really begins a process of restoring dignity to those people and reconnecting their lives to their stories.”


Slavin notes that what researchers uncovered are burial features; no graves have been distrubed. He says they have looked about a foot to 18-inches below the ground and have seen shapes of graves that are further below the soil. 



“How we proceed from here is - the first thing we’ll do is protect this site. This is sacred ground now for Delaware. It is probably one of the most significant spaces we have in the telling of Black history in Delaware," said Slavin. "So we protect it and engage with the community; we want to have a broad dialogue as to how to move forward with this and how to design a space that people can eventually visit and pay respects to.”

Slavin says they want to learn as much as possible about the slaves that lived on the Plantation to properly tell that piece of First State history.

He notes the site is in a very remote location and there is no public access to it now.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.