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‘Segregated Sands’: Delaware Beaches During Jim Crow

Logo for the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs

-New virtual exhibit from Lewes, Delaware’s Zwaanendael Museum-


(DOVER, Del. — Feb. 8, 2022) — The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, Delaware has recently published “Segregated Sands: Delaware’s Segregated Beaches During the Jim Crow Era,” an online exhibit that explores the history and stories of the Indigenous and African American experience at Delaware’s beaches during the segregation era. The exhibit can be accessed by going to the museum’s website at

Photo of the 'Segregated Sands' banner

“Segregated Sands” was created by Zwaanendael Museum staff members and intern Kelli Racine Barnes, a doctoral candidate at the University of Delaware studying late-18th and early-19th-century African American history. Honored by the university as an African American Public Humanities Fellow, Barnes was also named a 2021 E. Lyman Stewart Intern for the summer of 2021. As part of her internship, she conducted most of the research, writing and design of what was to become the “Segregated Sands” exhibit.

Photo of Kelli Racine Barnes
Kelli Racine Barnes

In her Nov. 12, 2021 article, “Beach-going in Delaware: Black perspectives under segregation,” which appeared in the division’s newsletter, Barnes wrote, “By the early-20th century, Delaware government officials systematically repressed Black, Indigenous and other residents of color through state sanctioned laws of segregation which extended to all facets of life including recreation. After the Civil War, the Delaware General Assembly rejected measures of equality enacted by the federal government including Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment. Segregation laws became the norm, determining how Black people engaged with Delaware’s beaches.”

“Segregated Sands” aims to broaden public understanding of how Delaware’s beaches were utilized throughout history in an online format that is easy for the public to view. The exhibit explores 12 beaches, spread across Delaware’s three counties, that were either designated locations for people of color to visit anytime, or places where they were permitted to visit on specifically designated days.

As a companion to the exhibit, the museum is conducting “Recapturing Black Beaches: A Shared Story Project,” an oral history initiative that aims to gather and memorialize the stories of people of color who visited Delaware’s segregated beaches throughout history. Information gathered during the oral history project, as well as a plethora of other research efforts, will be incorporated into the “Segregated Sands” virtual exhibit. For questions or to learn more, contact the Zwaanendael Museum at 302-645-1148 or

The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped façade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.

Photo of the Zwaanendael Museum by Cindy Dolan
Zwaanendael Museum. Photo by Cindy Dolan

The Zwaanendael Museum is administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, an agency of the State of Delaware. The division enhances Delaware’s quality of life by preserving the state’s unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history. The division’s diverse array of services includes operation of five museums which are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, administration of the State Historic Preservation Office, conservation of the state’s archaeological and historic-objects collections, operation of a conference center and management of historic properties across the state. Primary funding for division programs and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly and grants from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, a federal agency. However, the contents and opinions expressed in the division’s programs and services do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Department of the Interior.


Contact: Jim Yurasek Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Phone: 302-577-5170 E-mail: Web: