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Wilmingtonians bake off to honor civil rights leader and educator during Black History Month

The Wilmington Public Library held an “Amateur Sweet Potato Pie Contest” Tuesday as part of its celebration of Black History Month.

The pie contest was a tribute to Mary McLeod Bethune—a child of former slaves who became a civil rights leader, educator, businesswoman and government official. Bethune sold sweet potato pies to fund the school she founded in Florida that ultimately became Bethune-Cookman University.

“We couldn't have people in here for COVID, so we decided that we were going to do a sweet potato pie contest,” said Leah Howard, youth services specialist at the library. “Mary Bethune, she had a school for girls, and she started the school by [making] sweet potatoes and selling them. So we decided this would be a good idea to see [if] the community would get involved.”

Six contestants submitted pies to the Wilmington library’s contest—which was judged by Councilwoman Michelle Harlee and several members of library staff. 

The winner was Wilmington resident Tamar Pates. 

“We had them write why they like to bake,” Howard said. “Tamar wrote, 'My love for baking came from watching women in my family and from church gatherings before and after service. I believe that a delicious baked good can comfort the soul.'”

The library’s last Black History Month event Friday will be a book discussion with Adrian Miller, the author of "Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbeque.”

Delaware libraries have hosted Black History Month events throughout February. The Route 9 library and Christina Cultural Arts Center will hold the annual Black History Month Showcase of song, dance and history, virtually, this Thursday evening.

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