Community Website Highlights Enduring Significance of 1968 Wilmington Riots

The new project aims to start cross-generational conversations, plus collect oral histories for future generations.


Published:

Courtesy of Delaware Art Museum

Twenty area organizations have collaborated to launch www.wilmington1968.org, a tool for community reflection and resources on the Wilmington riots of 1968, the local Civil Rights Movement, and present-day racial and social justice issues.

Members of the community can also share memories of their own to contribute to cross-generational conversations about this historic event. These oral histories will be archived for future generations.

The website will also serve as a hub for information about related exhibitions, performances, events and forums. It will be available to the community through January 2019. 

A bit of historical context: Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Wilmington high school students converged on Rodney Square. After the protests, looting and fires prompted a request for the National Guard to restore peace. Though other American cities experienced the same level of uprising after April 4, 1968, Wilmington experienced the longest peacetime occupation in modern times—remaining under martial law for nine and a half months. This extensive patrol of Wilmington by the National Guard drastically changed the city from the inside out. Residents went about their days and nights watched, restricted, angry and fearful. Many businesses on Market Street closed.

Last year Simone Austin, the Delaware Art Museum's 2017 Alfred Appel Jr. Curatorial Fellow, served as the primary contemporary researcher on these events for the Delaware Art Museum's summer exhibition series. The community-wide reflection, beginning this spring, will bring "both answers and questions," says Austin. "People of my generation and those who are not from Wilmington will start to understand what happened, why Wilmington looks the way it does today, and why people have certain perceptions of the City of Wilmington and of Delaware. [...] I'm hoping that more people will come forward and share their experiences."

Squatch Creative, the design firm that created the website, drew inspiration from the protest art of the 1960s. “While creating the aesthetic for the Wilmington 1968 remembrance, I wanted to do justice to the people who lived through this experience,” says site designer Marcus Price. “It's different than creating a website for a product or a brand. It was an entire movement and people. I wanted to be sure that I honored that and the spirit involved.”

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