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Virginia Tryon Smilack collection relating to the desegregation of Claymont, DE


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Virginia Tryon Smilack is the daughter of the late Dr. Sager Tryon, former Vice President of the Claymont, Delaware School Board. During his tenure, the School Board was the first in the state to desegregate a public school in 1952, two years before the 1954 Supreme Court decision of

Brown v. Board of Education. The cases Bulah v. Gebhart and Belton v. Gebhart, handled by civil rights attorney Louis L. Redding, addressed the issue of segregation’s burden on African American students. The featured plaintiffs, Ethel Louise Belton and Shirley Barbara Bulah illuminated the hardship of traveling far outside their area to attend African American schools when suitable schools were closer, but only for white students. Chancellor Collins Seitz of Delaware’s high Court of Chancery heard the cases and ruled in favor of desegregation. He declined to make a ruling on "separate but equal," doctrine leaving that for the Supreme Court. These cases were part of a total of five lawsuits that were part of Brown v. Board, and were used as an example that integration could work in school systems. The state of Delaware commemorated the integration with a marker during the 52nd anniversary celebration of Claymont’s contribution to the nation’s battle for equality.

“Claymont, Cornerstone of Brown v. Board, 2004,” Delawareana: Decade of Donors: 2000-2010, University of Delaware Special Collections. Last modified November, 29, 2011.“Delaware: Conflict in the Border State,” Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education (blog) by Smithsonian National Museum of American History. derived from contentMiller, Andrea and Antonio Prado, “Remembering Claymont High: first white public school in Delaware to admit black student” last modified October 21, 2008 9:19 PM.

The Virginia Tryon Smilack collection relating to the desegregation of Claymont, DE documents the background and commemoration of events before, during, and after the desegregation of Claymont High School.

The first series features three commemoration events in 2004, 1997, and 1995. The first folder features the 2004 commemoration of the 52nd anniversary of the integration of Claymont High School, including a commemorative report on the event, a flier and article on the 52nd anniversary program, and an undated photograph of Claymont High school. The second folder features the 1997 marker dedication for Claymont High School. It contains speech transcripts by Virginia Tryon Smilack, her mother Evelyn Tryon, and the Honorable Judge J. Seitz, a copy of the marker, and VHS recording of the dedication ceremony. The third folder features the 1995 commemoration of desegregation of Claymont High School, containing one transcript of a speech prepared and presented by Virginia Tryon Smilack and her mother, Evelyn Tryon. The second series contains background material highlighted information on the events of Claymont’s segregation and desegregation. The first folder features an oral history transcript of former Delaware Attorney General H. Albert Young. The oral history focuses on Young’s academic and professional career, which mentions the desegregation cases. The second folder features background material on the events before, during, and after desegregation of Claymont High School, including reprints and copies of popular magazine articles and a VHS recording of Chancellor Seitz’s memorial service.

Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript box (1 inch)

2 VHS Tapes: Shelved in SPEC Media Videocassettes

Gift of Virginia Tryon Smilack, 2004.

Processed and encoded by Rivi Feinsilber, March 2018.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2018 March 13
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

2004 Commemoration, 2004.
Box 1 Folder 1
1997 Commemoration, 1997.
Box 1 Folder 2
1995 Commemoration, 1995.
Box 1 Folder 3

Former Delaware Attorney General H. Albert Young Oral History Transcript, 2004 October.
Box 1 Folder 4
Events Related to Desegregation of Claymont High School.
Box 1 Folder 5

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