Georgetown whipping post

A painful symbol of violence and racial discrimination for many Delawareans is finally being removed on July 1, 2020.

Delaware was the last state to abolish use of the whipping post, and now the last whipping post in the state is being taken down from public display on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown amid calls from the community.

"We're finally getting rid of some replicas of the past that were really not very good replicas to represent all of the citizens of the State of Delaware, so, we're finally getting them out of the public view," Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, vice chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission, told WDEL, in an interview.

The post will be moved into a Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs storage facility, where another whipping post from the Dover Green is also being kept. It could end up in a museum setting at some point, where there, HCA director Tim Salvin said it can be "contextualized and interpreted."

“It is appropriate for an item like this to be preserved in the state’s collections, so that future generations may view it and attempt to understand the full context of its historical significance,” said Slavin. “It’s quite another thing to allow a whipping post to remain in place along a busy public street – a cold, deadpan display that does not adequately account for the traumatic legacy it represents, and that still reverberates among communities of color in our state.”

Hollingsworth, while not one of the persons advocating for the whipping post's removal, agrees with the decision that it would serve a better purpose in a museum.

"I don't want them destroyed, personally. I think if you destroy the past then the future doesn't really understand the past...but I would rather see the replicas placed in a museum so that they can be studied and preserved for future generations. But I don't think that we need to actually view them every time we pass through Georgetown, or Dover, or New Castle."

Dover and New Castle's whipping posts have been removed, but Hollingsworth said Georgetown's was re-established.

"We really need to be more sensitive to the feelings of all the citizens and not just one group," she said.  "I guess in memory as part of the history of Sussex County, I can't speak for why they did it, but some people actually laud those kinds of things as being important to the life....it was an insult for me every time I rode by, to see it."

The Georgetown Historical Society, which erected the whipping post, did not return WDEL's request for comment.

Hollingsworth, a lifelong Delaware educator, historian, and civil rights advocate, actually saw a man whipped at the Kent County whipping post as a child in the 1930s.

"It really doesn't resonate very well for me as a native Delawareans to see those kinds of monuments still in existence in the year 2020."

The last use of the whipping post in Delaware took place in 1952, according to the HCA.

Hollingsworth said she plans to be present for the whipping post's removal Wednesday.

"I'll have mixed feels. I know that there will be some people who will not really be pleased to see the monument removed, but I think, that for the masses, over time, when you understand the implications of those kind of monuments to citizens, black citizens, perhaps they would understand why it's important to us for it to be removed--even though there were whites who were whipped in the state of Delaware. Of course, there were more blacks whipped than whites, but poor whites actually got whipped for the same kinds of things that blacks did."

She called this another step towards educating people and ending systemic racism that permeates our culture.

"We're all human beings created by God, and when you remove the color of their skin, we all look the same, and the color of the skin is no reason for one to feel superior to the other because God created us with a skin so that we could survive in the area that he intended for us to be, and I think that when people use the skin color as a means of feeling superior, then they really don't have much else to offer, so they can feel good about themselves."