On view at the Delaware County Historical Museum, Library & Research Center is a mannequin, dark in complexion, dubbed “Black Anthony,” who represents one of the first of African descent to come to Pennsylvania, but not as a slave but a very prominent free man.
Not much is known about him, however, Antoni Swart is believed to have arrived in Wilmington, Del. from Europe in late 1638 or 1639.
He came to the area from the West Indies because of his knowledge of tobacco growing and handling ships.
He also was the special assistant to Gov. Johan Printz, for whom he cut hay and handled his sloop or pleasure yacht. Swart was listed in Printz’s 1644 annual report as one of the governor’s employees.
Swart may have been an Angoler or a Moor and some say he arrived in the West Indies as a slave.
However, the Swedish didn’t practice slavery, although they did use indentured servitude, not always voluntary. It’s believed that Swart initially earned his freedom from the colony by working for years to repay its costs of paying for him.
It is accepted that he arrived as a servant to go to the New Sweden colony but probably not a slave. In fact, in 1654, he made some purchases from a company that controlled New Sweden, a move that indicates his freedom at the time.
The dates and details of his death are unknown and no image of him is known to exist.
The mannequin at the DCHS’ museum sports the attire Swart would’ve worn at the time from a wide-brimmed hat to a loose-fitting V-neck, long sleeved shirt to a pair of dark shorts. It is on loan from the Swedish Colonial Society of Delaware.
It can be seen at the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center. The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visit www.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
Antoni Swart is depicted in a mannequin at the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center in Chester.