Milford Public Library will hold a Black History presentation in partnership with the Milford Museum which will tell the history of African Americans in Milford. The program will begin at 6 PM in Lions A and B on February 16.
“This program will feature local historians who will tell their experiences and provide details on what it was like for African Americans in the Milford of the past,” Carolyn Tabor, Program Coordinator, said. “We are excited to have people presenting this information who actually lived through this history and can give us a first hand perspective.
One of the speakers, Charles Hammond, will talk about his role as part of the Milford Seven, the first black students to successfully integrate Milford High School in 1964. Details will also be provided regarding the Milford 11, the first black students who attempted integration in the 1950s, but were unsuccessful.
“If we had not attended Milford, we would have had to go to either William Henry Comprehensive High School in Dover or William C. Jason High School in Georgetown,” Hammond said. “We knew we would have better opportunities if we went to Milford.”
John Whalen, Timothy Duker, Josephus Clark, Gregory Showell, Hammond, who came up with the name Milford Seven, and Oveta Whaley Gray, the only female, began attending Milford High School in 1962. George Davis joined the six later in the year. About five others also began attending, but only the Milford Seven graduated from the school.
All seven of the students began attending school together in first grade in what is now Benjamin Banneker Elementary School. The young men all lived in the same geographic area and Duker says he recalls the five of them sitting down together and deciding that they would attend Milford High School. Although all of the Milford Seven indicated that they were mostly accepted by other students, there were some students who were not as accepting.
At the program held at the Milford Library, Hammond will provide details on some of the hardships the seven faced as they attended Milford High School. Gray, the only female and the only student who lived outside of town, stated that she struggled the most as she had to ride the school bus into town.
“In town, it seemed like people had more progressive values,” Gray said. “Out in the country, they didn’t share those values. That bus ride was very difficult with name calling and things like that. I kept my head down and sat near the driver where I was safest. Once I arrived at school, it was much better, but the bus ride was terrible.” Like her male counterparts, Gray wanted to attend Milford due to the better-quality education she would receive. Gray went on to be the first black nursing student in the Milford Memorial Hospital nursing program.
To learn more about the Black History program at the Milford Library, visit www.milford.lib.de.us or call 302-422-9418.
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