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Delaware Senate Democrats

Dedication Of New George White Lynching Historical Marker Set For October 20

September 30, 2019

PRICES CORNER – A new historical marker commemorating the lynching of George White will be unveiled during a public ceremony on Oct. 20, just a few months after the original was stolen from Greenbank Park.

“I have said all along that we will not be deterred by this cowardly and criminal act,” said Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, chair of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus. “For centuries, certain elements of society have tried to suppress and erase African-American history. They did not succeed then and they will not succeed now. Their crimes will only serve to bring our community closer and strengthen our collective resolve to ensure that acts of racial terror, such as the lynching of George White, will never be forgotten.”

The Delaware Public Archives ordered a replacement marker shortly after the theft in late July or early August. To encourage community ownership, generous donations from private citizens were accepted to help fund the purchase and installation of the new marker.

New Castle County government also will be contributing to the marker’s replacement through the installation of additional security measures in Greenbank Park.

“We are committed to fighting racial injustice wherever it occurs,” said County Executive Matt Meyer. “The theft of the original marker is a shameful continuation of the history that this marker seeks to acknowledge. By working together to install a replacement, we are showing our county and our state that we will not stand by and allow this dark chapter of our past to be forgotten or ignored any longer.” 

Next month’s rededication ceremony promises to be even larger than the unveiling of the original marker on June 23.

The upcoming event will feature a performance by the Delaware State University Choir, a prayer from Stated Clerk Bob Schminkey of New Castle Presbytery and a representative from the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit founded by nationally renowned criminal justice reform advocate and Delaware native Bryan Stevenson.

“It’s critically important that we acknowledge the history of racial inequality in my home state of Delaware,” said Stevenson, the subject of the recent HBO documentary “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality.” “It’s been encouraging to see local advocates, activists, and some elected officials be so supportive of this effort. We have the potential to lead the nation in what it means to commit to truth and justice around our history of racial injustice, but as we’ve already seen, it will take vigilance and dedication.”

First installed by the Delaware Public Archives at New Castle County’s Greenbank Park on June 23, the historical marker memorializes the 1903 lynching of laborer George White at the hands of a white mob.

White had been accused of killing the daughter of Ferris School’s superintendent weeks earlier but denied any involvement in the attack. Two attempts to carry White from prison had already failed when local pastor Robert Elwood delivered a sermon that sparked a violent confrontation between White’s jailers and hundreds of rioters. White was eventually dragged off and burned alive by the mob, who took pieces of his charred body as souvenirs.

No one was ever convicted of any crimes related to his murder.

Although a documentary has been made about White’s lynching and the story has been repeated over the years by various historians and journalists, the incident was largely forgotten by the general public until the original marker was dedicated this summer.

The creation of that marker was due to the work of Savannah Shepherd, a 17-year-old senior at the Sanford School who first learned about White’s murder after visiting the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The site is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the roughly 4,300 documented racial terror lynchings of African Americans between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War II. The memorial is operated by the Equal Justice Initiative.

After returning home, Shepherd founded the Delaware Social Justice Remembrance Coalition and worked to get a historic marker placed in the area where White was killed. She approached Sen. Brown, who agreed to cover the cost of the marker and advance Shepherd’s efforts.

That marker stood for just six weeks before being stolen, a theft still under investigation by the New Castle County Police Department. Delaware Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to an arrest and conviction.

“We will not allow this criminal act to make us afraid of having tough conversations and remembering the past so we can move toward a more just future,” said Shepherd, who recently attended the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual legislative conference as a guest of Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del. “Lynching was a tactic used to instill fear in people. We refuse to allow history to repeat itself.”

Historic Marker Unveiling and Dedication

WHO:  State Senator Darius Brown

              Members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus

             U.S. Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester

             Gov. John Carney

             Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long

             New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer

Savannah Shepherd

            Stephen Marz, Director of the Delaware Public Archives

            Other state and county officials

WHEN: 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20

WHERE: Greenbank Park

    250 Greenbank Road

    Wilmington, DE 19808

RSVP: Scott Goss, Communications Director for the Senate Majority Caucus

(302) 744-4180