This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.

Wilmington, Delaware

Delaware, like colonial neighbors Maryland and Virginia, is one of the oldest states and also one with an economy historically reliant on slavery. It's this unpleasant past, as well as its position on the northern periphery of the South, that divided Delaware's loyalties during the American Civil War.

By the time war broke out between the North and the South, the abolition movement in Delaware had nearly dismantled slavery in the state, yet the few remaining slaveholders were powerful and clung tenaciously to the institution. Delaware did not secede from the Union, but it remained a slave state until the passage of the 13th Amendment abolished all slavery in 1865.

Delawareans would probably rather not dwell on the past, but it's hard not to when your state is like a gigantic museum. Well, gigantic by museum standards, very small by state standards.

Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware, served as a vital industrial port in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries. Its steelworks and shipyards churned out material for America's efforts in two world wars. Since then, the city has fallen on very hard times, owing to its location amid so many major urban areas of the East Coast. Violent crime statistics are greatly elevated above the national average and the prevalence of intravenous drug use among the city's poor has led to one of the worst HIV infection rates in all of North America.

Wilmington remains the rail and air hub and industrial center of Delaware, but like the junkies shuffling in its streets it is a city that is afflicted. While much of the nation has managed a painful transition to a new economy, Wilmington is still stumbling its way to the distant finish line.

There are historic districts and beautiful buildings in Wilmington and the downtown area is actually quite safe thanks to Wilmington's advanced surveillance system. If that's enough to get you visit then you might just find what you're looking for: a museum and some AIDS.


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