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Before desegregation, the State of Delaware maintained, by law, separate schools for three types of “colored” students—Negroes, Nanticoke Indians, and Moors. During the period between 1919 and 1965, the greatest progress in Delaware Negro education was of a physical nature. Three Negro county high schools were constructed from funds granted by the Delaware School Auxiliary Association, which was almost wholly supported by the DuPont family:
• William C. Jason Comprehensive High School which opened in Sussex County in 1951 and closed its doors at the end of the 1967 school year.
• William W. M. Henry Comprehensive High School which began operation for Kent County in 1952 and ceased operation at the end of the 1965-66 school year.
• Louis L. Redding Comprehensive High School which opened for New Castle County students in 1953 and closed at the end of the 1966 school year.
William Henry was a new institution without any past tradition or policies when it opened its doors in September 1952. As stated on the cover of the Program of Studies booklet for the 1952-53 school year, it was “A new educational center, born to strengthen the democratic way of life.” It was originally set up as a three-year high school under the supervision of the State Department of Public Instruction and the State of Delaware.
The school had as its two-fold purpose to (1) prepare students for their life work and (2) give students thorough preparation for the entrance to colleges, universities and scientific schools. As part of its philosophy, William Henry was created “to be a place where cooperative living could be practiced under experienced leadership, where self-control could be exercised, where consideration of problems concerning the general good could be demonstrated daily and where the best qualities of each student could be developed. Not only did the leadership feel that the school purpose was to prepare its citizens to earn a living but also to live a democratic life—a way of life that can only be learned by living it.
Prior to the opening of William Henry, a very small population of “colored students” went to a high school that was in operation at Delaware State College, now known as Delaware State University. Once opened, students from all over Kent County came to the school. The boundaries for student attendance were from Smyrna through Milford and Harrington.
With the milestone decision of the Supreme Court in 1954, integration of blacks and whites in the schools of Delaware slowly became a reality. The real desegregation for Delaware came after a 1965 State Board of Education Resolution that mandated that there would be no more separate schools. School districts began to reorganize their schools in order to comply with the new law.
William W. M. Henry Comprehensive High School closed its doors on June 30, 1966. Before closing, the school had achieved accredited status through the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Colleges and Schools. It had also changed its population to include grades seven through twelve.
There were only two principals during the existence of William Henry High School. They were Mr. Harley Taylor (1952-1955) and Mr. James C. Hardcastle (1955-1966). Both are deceased.
The school colors were maroon and white and the school mascot was “The Ram”.
Today, William W. M. Henry Comprehensive High School is known as William W. M. Henry Middle School for fifth and sixth grades in the Capital School District. An active Alumni Association strives to keep the school history alive.
The School History was researched and compiled by alumnus Anita L. McDowell Boyer. Revised July 2004.