NAACP: Remove Georgetown’s Confederate monument

Civil rights organization says $11,500 of Grant-In-Aid funding should be stopped
August 18, 2017

Story Location:
510 S. Bedford Street
Georgetown  Delaware  19947
United States

Citing the specter of white nationalist terrorism growing across America, the Lower Sussex County Branch of the NAACP has called on local legislators to stop $11,500 in Grant-in-Aid funding to the Georgetown Historical Society until a Delaware Confederate Monument is removed from its grounds.

“... it has become increasingly clear the country’s confederate monuments are no longer testaments to the past, but idols of a white nationalist future,” reads an Aug. 16 statement from Louise Henry, Lower Sussex NAACP president.

“When these structures – and the confederate flag that so often waves alongside them – become a rallying point for Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacists, they exist only as a divisive threat to the greatness of America as the most inclusive and diverse country on Earth,” the release said.

The monument, tucked away on the back portion of the museum’s South Bedford Street property, was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy Caleb Ross Chapter #2365 and the Sons of Confederate Veterans Delaware Grays Camp #2068. There are two flag poles and three granite headstones bear the names of 102 Delaware Confederate Army veterans and citizens who assisted the soldiers. To see the monument, a person would pass by the Marvel Carriage Museum; the Ellis School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1833; and a telephone museum.

Henry recognized the unified front from the state’s Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the days following race-related violence in Charlottesville, Va., but she said the NAACP was shocked and dismayed to learn taxpayer dollars are subsidizing the message.

“While we give credit to the Delaware lawmakers who joined together to denounce the hate and violence of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, we cannot help but feel like more action is required by our local officials to offer the clear delineation between right and wrong that our president seems unable to acknowledge,” reads the release.

Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, said he is not in favor of stopping grant funding for the museum. There’s so much more to the museum than the monument, he said.

Pettyjohn said Grant-in-Aid for Fiscal Year 2018, which began July 1, has already been approved; he said, he doesn’t think there’s a mechanism to change that.

Second, said Pettyjohn, it’s a dangerous road to travel when funding for museums is based on what people want to remember.

“Sometimes museums show things that are offensive,” he said.

Pettyjohn said almost all of the money given to the museum by the state is used to offset the museum’s electric costs. There are no lights on the monument, he said.

Pettyjohn said he’s surprised there’s been a call for the removal of the monument. It’s part of the history of the people who live here, he said.

“History always offends someone. It’s that offense that prevents us from making the same mistakes in the future,” he said.

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, said she does not support the removing of the grant money. She said the historical society provides many program and hosts events to educate and share history.

“Therefore, the withholding of funds is not justified,” she wrote in a Aug. 18 email. “It should be noted the current monument was erected and paid for by private organizations, not the GHA, and no state funds go toward the upkeep of the monument.”

King said she was disappointed that the NAACP did not reach out to either herself or the historical society before issuing a public statement.
“I believe we need to encourage civility and decision making by the stakeholders. This means encouraging and supporting organizations and individuals to seek their own resolutions through discussion that includes  listening to one another to resolve issues,” she said.

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, is the county’s only Democrat. He was among the group of state leaders who signed the letter condemning the Charlottesville violence. He could not be reached for comment.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown.