Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way has been unveiled in Lewes.
Mayor Ted Becker uncovered the first of many honorary street signs during a large ceremony Feb. 28 at the corner of West Fourth Street and Burton Avenue. He was joined by Lorraine Smith, wife of George H.P. Smith, the city’s first African American mayor, and lifelong Lewes resident Raymond Emerson Jackson.
More signs will be added over the next week along West Fourth Street from Savannah Road to New Road.
“I believe that together we stand and divided we fall,” said the Rev. George Edwards Sr. of Friendship Baptist Church, who spearheaded the two-and-a-half-year effort to honor all African American contributors to Lewes’ history. “I certainly know we accomplished something great today.”
The ceremony drew more than 100 people, featuring remarks from lifelong Lewes resident Trina Brown-Hicks; Mayor Ted Becker; Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes; Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton; and State Auditor Kathy McGuiness. Lifelong resident Leonia Robinson recited a powerful poem fitting for the occasion, while the Rev. Dr. Deborah McCaffity of St. George AME Church gave a prayer to open the ceremony.
“I thank Rev. Edwards for his leadership and continued efforts to accomplish this goal,” Becker said. “He was tenacious, and he still is.”
Beyond the honorific renaming of West Fourth Street, city officials also created the Lewes African American Heritage Commission, which will develop a walking tour of Lewes highlighting significant African American community members and sites. The goal is to have the walking tour available through a brochure and on a smartphone app. The group will also draft language for a historic marker.
Lopez, who will pay for the marker through community transportation funds, said the street naming is the latest in an effort to honor African American history in the Cape Region. In recent years, he said, historic markers have been placed recognizing St. George AME’s cemetery on Pilottown Road, Rabbit’s Ferry School on Robinsonville Road, Israel United Methodist Church on Plantation Road and Milton Public School 196-C on Route 16. The latest effort, he said, is to save the Nassau School in Belltown near Five Points.
“We don’t have an answer for you yet except that the building will be preserved,” Lopez said.
Smyk said the effort to have West Fourth Street renamed is something King would be proud of.
“The burning flame inside of us can outburn and outshine any evils that the world can give us if we do it with love,” he said. “[King] taught us that we can change the world by loving others. Is that not what we are here today to do?”