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Historic Black church in Newark vandalized with racial slurs ahead of Easter Sunday, congregation says they will "not be intimidated"

St' Daniel's Community Church of Iron Hill.
Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
St' Daniel's Community Church of Iron Hill.

A historic Black church in Newark was vandalized just before Easter Sunday.

When Donna Johnson and her husband, Ted, arrived at St. Daniel’s Church on Saturday to prepare for the Easter Sunday service, they discovered the heat wasn’t working. She walked out back to check the propane tank but found something much worse.

“And then right above my head, as my eyes went up, I saw ‘die’ and the N word," Donna Johnson says. "And after I saw that, I directed my eyes all the way across where I saw ‘KKK,’ ‘die,’ all the way across, etched into the side of the building.”

The bathroom window was also broken but no items appear missing. Johnson called New Castle County Police - and the gas company to check the gas lines. They relocated their Sunday service to a church in Glasgow.

St. Daniel’s is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Johnson says the church, where she grew up attending, has more than 200 years of history.

“It struck a nerve because a lot of our family members are buried on that hallowed ground," she says. "And that’s like you disrupting them.”

Pastor Joe Field says they will continue to hold services there.

“We have an older congregation but they’re pretty strong," Field says. "A lot of them grew up in that area where they had a lot of racism going on so they’re not new to this. They’re prepared for it. They already told me, they said ‘Pastor, we’re going to be here Sunday and we’re going to have church Sunday.’ We’re not going to be intimidated.”

County Police detectives are investigating. The church experienced a break-in and theft about two years ago – the culprit was never found. The nearby Iron Hill museum, a restored African American schoolhouse, has also experienced sustained vandalism over the past four years.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.