Wilmington in the
|In the late 1930s local photographer
Szymanski, Sr., captured on film a rare glimpse into the daily lives of
people in Wilmington's East Side, one of the city's traditional African
American communities. Few of Wilmington's neighborhoods have been
the subject of such an intimate, detailed, and descriptive photographic
study. Szymanski stepped off the main streets to document the
people, places, and activities of one community during the Great
Depression, one of the most troubling eras in American History.
By 1938, the people of Wilmington had struggled through nearly a decade of the Great Depression. Times had been difficult and no one was spared the hardships. Candid views of the Depression years are rare. Photographers commonly depicted the city's public face, showing bustling downtown scenes, or, like the famous photographer, Jacob Riis, the most desperate conditions of the Depression.
Szymanski brings this era to us as a slice of life: children at play, August Quarterly crowds filling the street, a barber posing outside his shop, and lifeguards at the local pool. Not all of the images are candid, but Szymanski's work does not flinch from showing the everyday details of life. He has not sanitized the subjects, and thus, offers us an honest portrait of the people and places he chose to photograph.
Wilmington in the 1930s: Focus on the East Side portrays one Wilmington neighborhood in a time of national transition and hardship. The images invite us to look back in time. It is a look that, thanks to photographer Henry Szymanski, Sr., seems at once both distant and understandable.
This exhibit presents a study of the African-American community in Wilmington's East side through photographs taken by Henry Szymanski, Sr. You may recognize people and places that we have not been able to fully identify.
Click here for a gallery of some of the photographs (including those shown on the right) some of which are being shown in Wilmington in the 1930s: Focus on the East Side. Click here for a brief biography of Henry Szymanski, Sr.
Delaware Historical Society
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