Delaware to remove whipping post display from state grounds

GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) — Delaware officials are set to remove a whipping post that was historically used to hold people as they were publicly lashed for committing crimes.

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will bring down the 8-foot (2.4-meter) concrete post located outside the Old Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown on Wednesday and place it in a Dover storage unit with other historical artifacts, according to a statement issued by the agency Tuesday.

Officials said the post would be removed in response to calls from the community and “in recognition of the violence and racial discrimination that its display signified.”

“Such relics of the past should be placed in museums to be preserved and protected for those who want to remember the cruel, inhuman, barbarous acts perpetrated on our citizens,” said Reba Hollingsworth, vice chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission.

The state-owned post was put on display on the grounds of the courthouse by the Georgetown Historical Society in 1993, nearly two decades after Delaware outlawed state-sanctioned public floggings outside local jails and prisons. It was the last state to abolish the whipping post, news outlets reported.

People of all races were subject to the lashings, but a book published in 1947 by Robert Caldwell, a former sociology professor in the state, said more than 60% of those beaten between 1900 and 1945 were Black, The Delaware News Journal reported. At that time, Black people made up less than 20% of Delaware’s population.

“People should not have to ride by and be reminded of the atrocities that people faced at some points in Delaware’s history,” the news outlet quoted Jane Hovington, treasurer for the Delaware NAACP, as saying.

Hovington said state officials had been urged to remove the whipping post even before the death of George Floyd sparked international protests and set off a push to remove Confederate monuments, flags and other icons that many say are symbols of racism. Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air.

Activists in Delaware are also calling on the Georgetown Historical Society to remove a Confederate flag that sits on private property outside a museum in the city.