• Info@FOSHA.org
  • Friends of School Hill Association (FOSHA), P.O. Box 7234, Newark, DE 19714
  • 302-376-6569

Mission of Friends of School Hill Association (FOSHA)

The mission of Friends of School Hill Association (FOSHA) is to collect, preserve, and share materials and information about the history and culture of the historic, African American, New London Avenue (School Hill) Community in Newark, DE. We share by using exhibits, oral history presentations and cultural events, and by bringing in local students for a hands-on educational experience. Our mission also includes promoting and supporting community unity and protecting the area’s endangered historic and cultural assets.

Brief History of Community

In the late 1840s, Delaware College trustee and wealthy Newark businessman Rathmell Wilson drew up a map of a large tract of land bounded by New London Avenue to the east, Nottingham Road to the west, Nathan Boulden’s land to the north, and James Shaeffer’s land to the south. He divided up the tract into lots and started selling the lots to local residents. Included in these residents were five free Black men: Isaac Bacchus, Nathan Wrench, Joseph Williams, Griffen Saunders, and Charles Brown. In purchasing their lots of land in the mid – 1840s, these men and their families were part of what would become a thriving free Black community on New London Avenue for over 150 years.

In antebellum Newark, the New London Avenue community’s existence was itself an act of resistance against the political and social climate. Black communities separate from whites offered several benefits, including safety in numbers and networks of employment. As the communities grew, social networks and institutions developed and bound the residents to one another. These communities were generally neighborhoods of free Black people called shadow towns since they were “in the shadow of larger communities.” 5 The New London Avenue neighborhood fits several of the criteria for shadow towns: it had houses on small lots along a road that stretches away from the town center, it eventually supported a church and school, it included a mix of landowners and renters, and it was close to businesses that offered employment but still on land that whites were willing to sell to Black residents.

Today, the New London Avenue neighborhood has been displaced by the growing footprint of the university. Though it is no longer an African American neighborhood, its legacy lives on in community members. It is important that members of the university and the greater Newark community better understand the impact on their surroundings and how it affects the current and future circumstances of Newark residents.

From The Antebellum Foundations of New London Road’s Free Black Community in Newark, Anisha Gupta, Unidel Distinguished Graduate Scholar, University of Delaware.

Timeline Mobile

*Isaac Bacchus
*Joseph Williams

*Clement Brown
*Nathan Wrench


John Rambo

Thomas Mclldoon
(Sells to *Griffen Sanders)


Richard Simmons

James Foley


Timeline of lot purchases on New London Avenue. Black men are marked with an asterisk.

Maps of Neighborhood

History of School Hill

The George Wilson Community Center, located at 303 New London Road, which is owned and operated by the City of Newark Parks and Recreation Department, is not an ordinary community center. The building has great historical significance as a landmark in the Newark community. The building was built because there was a need for a new school for African Americans.

The first school for Newark’s African American children was one organized by John Congo in 1860. This school was housed in the Congo home at the intersection of Corbit Street and New London Road (the Avenue). By about 1866 this school had grown sufficiently to move into a larger schoolhouse (South side of East Cleveland Ave).

Pierre S. duPont, then president of E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company and chairman of the Board of Directors of General Motors Corporation, was appointed (effective July 1, 1919) to the new State Board of Education, at which time he resigned from his business operations and began devoting much of his time to the cause of education. Between 1919 and 1928 he personally financed the construction of more than 80 schools for African Americans. The Newark school for black students on Cleveland Avenue (like others in Delaware, given the curious title “Newark Public School”) was one of those replaced under the duPont gift. The property where the George Wilson Center sits was purchased on October 14, 1921. “Following the offer of Mr. Pierre S. duPont, the School Auxiliary Association has purchased from H. Warner McNeal a lot of 5 acres on New London Avenue which will be the site for the new school building for colored children.”

The school opened on September 5, 1922. “Dr Joseph H. Odell on Saturday, September 2, 1922, in the absence of Dr. Walt Steel, made the presentation speech at the opening exercises held at the new colored schoolhouse on New London Avenue.” (“Presentation Exercises at Colored School”). Throughout its history, the school was staffed by highly intelligent, highly educated teachers whose students became doctors, lawyers, ambassadors, professional athletes, pharmacists, dentists, professors, teachers, scientists, artists, musicians, etc.

The school became a gathering place for the African American community during non-school hours. It was nicknamed School Hill because the building and grounds sit near the beginning of an endless, sweeping hill that climbs from Corbit Street to the Pennsylvania line. “When school let out, the children of Newark made School Hill their second home. It became the biggest meeting place in town where everyone seemed to go. That’s where they went to have fun, to play baseball, football, or basketball, or just to hear what the older kids were talking about.” (People Were Close) The school was a community center for health programs, night school, WWII draft sign-up, teen clubs, concerts, etc.

The building functioned as a school until 1958, when School Hill students were integrated into other Newark Schools. Friends of School Hill Association is committed to seeing that everyone who enjoys the services at the George Wilson Community Center (named for the first Black City of Newark council member) will know the full, illustrious history of the New London Avene School building and grounds upon which they tread. ~ excerpted from City of Newark, DE website.

Newark Colored School Second School for African Americans in Newark, located on Cleveland Avenue

The school was built by the Freedman’s Bureau in 1867 with material from disassembled army barracks. After the New London Avenue School was built, this school became a community center for African Americans, where movies were shown, dances were held, and holiday gatherings took place.

The first school for African American children in Newark opened during the Civil War and was located at the corner of Corbit Street & New London Avenue. John Congo started the school in his home.