Written on: February 4th, 2019 in Blog Posts
Throughout Black History Month we will spotlight African American leaders that influenced Delaware. This week, we are highlighting: Louis L. Redding, Fred T. Johnson, Samuel D. Burris, and Pauline A. Young.
Louis L. Redding was a prominent lawyer and civil rights advocate from Wilmington, Delaware. Redding, was born in Alexandria, Virginia but moved to Wilmington during his Childhood. He attended Harvard Law School in 1925, and was the only black member of the graduating class in 1928. He was the first African American to be admitted to the Delaware bar, and was the only black attorney for more than 25 years.
He is most famous for being a part of the NAACP legal team that challenged school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
He practiced law for 57 years and greatly impacted the ability of millions to get an education. He died in 1998, after which the University of Delaware established the Louis L. Redding Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy. In 2013 A residence hall at the University of Delaware’s Newark Campus was also named after him.
Fred T. Johnson was born in Indiana in 1924, but moved to Delaware with his parents as a child. He attended the state’s only all-black high school Howard High School. Though he was studying to become a doctor at Indiana University, Johnson left college and joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 during World War II.
Johnson volunteered to become a Tuskegee Airman, which was the only elite aerial trained combat group that only allowed African Americans.
After the war Fred T. Johnson returned to his education and graduated from the Indiana University. He became a science teacher at William C. Jason Comprehensive High School, Sussex County’s first all-black high school. He went on to chair the science department at Warner Junior High School in Wilmington. He retired on 1981.
He died on 2017 after being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and being included on Tuskegee Airmen’s section on the Wall of Honor at the National Air and Space Museum. He was also and inductee in the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame.
Samuel D. Burris was born a free black man in Delaware in 1813. He moved his family to Philadelphia, and was a participant in the underground railroad, traveling south in order to help slaves escape from Delaware and Maryland. At the time in Delaware, helping slaves to freedom was a serious offense and came with the punishment of being sold into slavery for seven years.
When Burris was caught in June 1847, he sat in jail for fourteen months before being tried and sold into slavery. Burris was rescued from his fate when an abolitionist bought him while he was on auction and then set him free.
Burris died in California in December 1863. In 2015 he was pardoned of all his crimes by the then Governor of Delaware, Jack Markell.
Pauline Young was an African-American teacher, librarian, historian, lecturer, community activist, humanitarian. She was a devoted lifelong member of her local and the national chapter of the NAACP. Born in Massachusetts, Young grew up near an underground railroad point before moving to Delaware. Young joined the NAACP at the age of 12, and she served nine years as the secretary. Later, she became the president of the Wilmington, Delaware branch.
Young was honored by the Wilmington Branch of the National Association of University Women, she was recognized for outstanding service to the Home, the Community, the State, and the Nation and was hereby inducted to the Hall of Fame of Delaware women. Young received a Certificate of Honorary Membership from Delaware State College’s Black Studies Program. The University of Delaware Library renamed the residency program in honor of Young.
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