Filled with American history, diverse culture and breathtaking gardens, Greater Wilmington, Delaware and the Brandywine Valley is a welcoming destination for LGBTQ+ travelers. The area has been described as town and garden, historic and hip, beauty and brains, and past and present. It is like a riveting, romantic tale of two cultures, two centuries… even two different worlds. Wilmington is the town side of the equation, the urban hub where the 21st century thrives as a cultural renaissance is underway. Four-star restaurants, fine art and world-class entertainment share space with tax-free shopping from big box to boutique.
Travel north into the Brandywine Valley and the visual landscape quickly transforms to a different time and place. Here, the elegant estates and glorious gardens of a bygone era are a testament to the influence of the du Pont family. Grab your partners, grab your friends and family and make your way out to #VisitWilm.
This June, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is celebrating Pride Month by diving deeper into Delaware’s LGBTQ+ history.
Since last fall, a small team has been working on “Delaware’s LGBTQ+ Community: A Research & Digital Engagement Project,” which aims to be Delaware’s first holistic effort to capture the stories and important moments in LGBTQ+ history across the state. In-depth research, oral histories and assistance from queer organizations within and outside of Delaware, as well as members of the queer community, will inform a digital resource that is expected to be available to the public this summer.
“Queer history is held by the community, which is why we’re making sure to engage with the community to help tell that history,” said Megan Hutchins, project lead and the Division’s engagement and collections manager. “Once this project is publicly available, we hope that it will be a resource for people: for educators to help teach and for the community to find comfort and to reach out if they have additional thoughts.”
The project examines state-focused LGBTQ+ history and highlights more than a dozen Delaware-specific people, places and objects important to those stories, many of which intertwine with the national historical record. Some of those notable local figures include Barbara Gittings (1932-2007), a Wilmington resident known by some as the “Mother of the Gay Rights Movement” for her early activism; The Renegade in Rehoboth Beach, which served as a longtime social center for the area’s LGBTQ+ community; and a collection of objects from DeShanna and Trinity Neal, local advocates for transgender rights and respect in the First State, including a rainbow wig and the children’s book “My Rainbow.”
“As a queer Delawarean, it has been extremely meaningful to identify and research these stories that have been either forgotten or purposely excluded from the historical record,” said the project’s researcher, Carolanne Deal. “By highlighting these stories and making them accessible to the public through this website, we are helping people gain a fuller perspective of United States history that can better help us comprehend the times we are living in.”
Join Deal for a special Pride Month program, “Delaware’s Queer History: We Have Always Been Here,” at the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover at 10:30 and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17.
For more statewide events celebrating Pride Month in Delaware, go to delawarepride.org
Cover photo by Richard Tickner