Whipping Post to be Removed from Public Display

GEORGETOWN, Del. – Tomorrow, July 1, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will remove a whipping post from public display on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Courthouse near the Circle in Georgetown.

Whipping post formerly displayed in Georgetown, Sussex County

The decision to remove the whipping post was made in response to calls from the community and in recognition of the violence and racial discrimination that its display signified to many Delawareans.

“Finally, Delaware is removing its last ‘Red Hannah,’ the whipping post, from the public’s view,” said Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, vice-chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission. “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.”

The post will be moved to a Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) storage facility with other historical objects and artifacts, including a whipping post that once stood near The Green in Dover.

“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 HCA Director Tim 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.”

HCA intends to work with historians, educators and leaders of the African American community in Delaware to explore plans for future display of this artifact in a museum setting, where it can be properly contextualized and interpreted.

This whipping post was located on the grounds of the Sussex Correctional Institution south of Georgetown. The facility was established in 1931, but the exact date this particular post was installed is not known. In 1992, the warden donated the post to HCA. The post was installed for public display at the state-owned Old Sussex County Courthouse site in September of 1993.

The history of corporal punishment in Delaware goes back to the earliest days of colonial settlement and included the use of the whipping post and the pillory in all three counties into the 20th century. These punishments were imposed for a variety of crimes throughout history and were disproportionately applied to persons of color. Those sentenced to the whipping post could be lashed up to 40 times for a single offense.

Dr. Hollingsworth, a lifelong Delaware educator, historian and civil rights advocate, witnessed a whipping in her childhood that still lives in her memory:

When I was a child in the late 1930s, I saw a man being whipped at the Kent County jail at the corner of New and Water Streets in Dover. On a Saturday morning, my dad, Solomon Ross, had driven to Dover from Milford to conduct some business. When he saw the crowd gathered at the front of the jail, he parked his car and he, my sister Vivienne and I joined the crowd around the wire mesh fence, which surrounded the jail yard.

There, we saw a man, naked to his waist, with his wrists shackled to an eight-foot post, being whipped by a man with a cat-o-nine-tails that had a short handle with nine rawhide thongs, which appeared to be about 18 inches long.

Even though the whipping occurred more than 80 years ago, I still remember the eerie silence that was pierced by the lashes of the whip. After each lash, the warden would loudly count each lash.

I don’t remember how many lashes the man received that day, but the incident is a vivid memory every time I pass the jail on New Street, even though Red Hannah has been removed. When I drive around the Circle in Georgetown, my childhood emotions fill my heart.

The last use of the whipping post in Delaware took place in 1952. Delaware was the last state to abolish the whipping post, removing the penalty from state law in 1972 through an act of the General Assembly signed by Gov. Russell Peterson.


Interactive Site Commemorates Women’s Suffrage Centennial

DOVER – The Delaware Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee is launching its educational, history filled, and interactive website.

The website (de.gov/womenvote100) includes interactive quizzes for kids and adults, reading lists for people of all ages, and lesson plans for teachers and students of all ages. The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee created a website that includes a historical summary about the general Women’s Suffrage Movement as well as Delaware’s part in the effort. The site will include perspectives from people of all walks of life, making sure Delaware residents get a complete understanding of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

“We are excited about the launch of the website celebrating 100th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote. As a member of the Delaware Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee, it was important to create a digital platform that was interactive, educational, and one that would spark conversations about protecting the right to vote. The resources provided are user-friendly and designed for educators, community advocates and parents. We hope that the resources will be used to empower the next generation of women leaders who will be committed to a modern and forward-thinking movement, building on the powerful foundation as set forth by the Suffragists,” said Jackie Griffith, chair of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee and director of government and community relations at Delaware State University.

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee was created by the passage of Delaware House Concurrent Resolution 21 on March 28, 2019. The resolution celebrates Delaware’s observance of the centennial of the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, providing for women’s suffrage. The resolution calls on the Delaware Heritage Commission to organize meaningful events and exhibits to honor this anniversary.

The Committee is planning a march and creating a monument to be dedicated to the women and men who fought for the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee was formed to “Celebrate, educate, and continue the work of the Women’s Suffrage Movement by commemorating the 100th anniversary.”

• Celebrate – Recognize that the 19th Amendment was the one of the greatest expansions of women’s rights in the history of the United States.
• Educate – Focus on providing people with the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
• Continue – Acknowledge that although the Voting Rights Act of 1965 removed some barriers to voting, other barriers still persist.

“Delaware – and our entire country for that matter – is facing a significant moment with the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. It is a time in is history we should not take lightly, so I applaud the fact-finding, creative and innovative work of the Delaware Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, prime sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 21. “The women’s suffrage movement was legendary and multi-faceted, and I am personally inspired by so many trailblazing leaders who have paved the way for women’s rights in our state. The subcommittee’s new website celebrates this effort by melding history, storytelling and current events, honoring that the right to vote is powerful and needed for women to make their voices heard.”

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee (de.gov/womenvote100) is made up of appointed members from various committees in the State of Delaware to ensure we have the best minds at the table while planning the celebration. The Committee helps bring Delaware residents together through knowledge.


Site of Purported African-American Cemetery Discovered

DOVER – Archaeologists working at a property near Frankford, Sussex County, have discovered the site of a cemetery known to the local community to contain the remains of African Americans who lived in the area.

Under the observation of an archaeologist from the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office, archaeologists employed by a private landowner delineated 11 graves at the site, known as the Orr Property or Hall Plantation.

A headstone was also found at the site bearing the name C.S. Hall and the lines “Co. K, 32nd U.S.C.T.” (an abbreviation for U.S. Colored Troops, the designation for units comprised of African American soldiers during the Civil War.)

The headstone has not been correlated to a specific grave, and no further information is yet known about the identities of the burials at the site. The presence of the remains of enslaved persons has not yet been confirmed through archaeology or review of the historical record.

“This cemetery is a significant discovery for the community and for all Delawareans who value and appreciate our state’s rich history,” said Tim Slavin, director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, which oversees the State Historic Preservation Office. “As work continues at the site, we hope to learn more about those who are interred there, so that they may be properly memorialized and their personal stories retold.”

The State Historic Preservation Office will offer guidance, advice and supervision as the landowner continues archaeological work at the site. Though the site is located on private property, the state will take an active role in ensuring that the ongoing archaeological investigation is thorough, professional and carried out in an ethical and responsible manner.

The landowner was an active participant in the gathering of local information about the site, and has indicated that the cemetery will be preserved. The state will work closely with the landowner to determine a plan for preservation.

“I would also like to thank the neighbors nearby for their role in calling attention to the presence of a cemetery here,” Slavin said. “Their recollections and local knowledge about the site and its location were key to discovering these burials. They spoke up, and thanks to them we can add a new page to Delaware history.”


Students Honored at 17th Annual Delaware Day Fourth Grade Competition Ceremony

DOVER – Students from across the state gathered Saturday at the Delaware Public Archives to celebrate the winners of the 17th Annual Delaware Day Fourth Grade Competition and to be recognized for their knowledge of the First State’s influential role in crafting the United States Constitution.

More than 530 students from 19 schools across the state were given two months to prepare informative displays illustrating Delaware’s role in the creation and ratification of the Constitution, integrating creative elements such as artwork, poetry, songs and cartoons. Representatives from the Department of State judged the projects focusing on three main areas: historical accuracy, spelling and creativity.

More than 14,000 students have participated in the annual Delaware Day Fourth Grade Competition since the start of the program in 2001. Delaware Day is observed each year on Dec. 7, the date that Delaware ratified the U.S. Constitution.

“Every year, Delawareans make special note of the day that our home earned its nickname, The First State,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “And every year I continue to be impressed by the creativity, knowledge and critical thinking on display in the projects that our fourth graders present to demonstrate their understanding of Delaware’s role in the American story.”

Each year, awards are given to schools with the most creative and historically accurate projects.
Named in honor of Delaware’s five signers of the U. S. Constitution, the awards recognize schools in each county plus the city of Wilmington as well as private schools. Projects also are evaluated by the Delaware Division of the Arts, with the most visually outstanding projects receiving an Artistic Merit Award in recognition of students’ creative use of design and composition.

Click here for a photo gallery from this year’s competition.

The winners of the 2018 Delaware Day Fourth Grade Competition are:

• George Read Award: Bunker Hill Elementary School, Appoquinimink School District

• Gunning Bedford Jr. Award: Robert S. Gallaher Elementary, Christina School District

• John Dickinson Award: Lake Forest Central Elementary, Lake Forest School District

• Richard Bassett Award: Laurel Elementary School, Laurel School District

• Jacob Broom Award: TIE – Learning Express Academy, Newark
Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Wilmington

• Artistic Merit Awards: Bunker Hill Elementary School
Laurel Elementary School
Lake Forest Central Elementary School
Robert S. Gallaher Elementary School

• Honorable Mention Awards

New Castle County
All Saints Catholic School
Christ the Teacher Catholic School
William B. Keene Elementary School
May B. Leasure Elementary School
Olive B. Loss Elementary School
Joseph M. McVey Elementary School
Etta J. Wilson Elementary School
UrbanPromise Wilmington
Ursuline Academy

Kent County
Fairview Elementary School
Booker T. Washington Elementary School

Sussex County
Lulu Ross Elementary School
Epworth Christian School

Artistic Merit Honorable Mention
Fairview Elementary School
Lulu Ross Elementary School
UrbanPromise Wilmington


Delaware to Acquire Cooch’s Bridge Site, Continue Search for Remains of Revolutionary Soldiers Killed in Battle

COOCH’S BRIDGE – Hallowed grounds believed to be the final resting place of some two dozen American soldiers who perished in the only major battle of the Revolutionary War fought in Delaware will soon become property of the state’s historic preservation agency, according to an agreement announced Friday.

Gathered at the historic Cooch home just south of Newark, officials from the Department of State joined members of the Cooch family to announce plans for the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to acquire the home and surrounding property at the heart of the Cooch’s Bridge battlefield.

In addition to providing a new public resource for future generations of Delawareans to learn the story of the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, the acquisition of the site will also allow for continued archaeological study of the property in an effort to locate the unmarked graves of the Americans who gave their lives there.

The agreement is the latest illustration of the Cooch family’s ongoing commitment to preserving the rich history of their lands, acquired by Thomas Cooch in 1746 and held in the family for nine generations since.

“Our father, Edward W. Cooch, Jr., would be very pleased with this announcement,” said Richard R. Cooch and Anne Cooch Doran. “He always said that he hoped that if the family house and battlefield, which he worked hard to preserve, ever left the Cooch family, that the property would be acquired by the State.”

“We as Delawareans are so fortunate to have such a variety of fascinating and beautiful historical sites up and down our state, and we should be proud of all the effort and cooperation that has allowed us to preserve another quintessential piece of our state’s history here at Cooch’s Bridge,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “I want to thank all the partners that came together to make this possible, with particular gratitude to Dick Cooch and Anne Cooch Doran for choosing to share this site with their fellow citizens.”

The acquisition includes the historic Cooch home, its adjacent outbuildings and 10 acres of surrounding property. The site will be purchased using $875,000 from the Delaware Open Space Council, plus $200,000 from the Crystal Trust and $25,000 from the Marmot Foundation (both independent, private philanthropic organizations based in Delaware.) Twenty percent of the sale proceeds will be donated by the Cooch family to the Cooch’s Bridge Historic District Fund administered by the Delaware Community Foundation. The fund, established by Edward W. Cooch, Jr., helps support maintenance and preservation efforts.

“The announcement of the permanent preservation of Delaware’s only Revolutionary War battlefield is another key example of the responsible stewardship for our shared history that we continue to practice here in our state,” said Tim Slavin, director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. “Next, we will begin to develop, with community input, a long-term vision for how these lands will be interpreted and made accessible to the public.”

The Cooch’s Bridge site also holds the potential to be among Delaware’s most sacred places. Written accounts from the 18th century cite the burial of approximately two dozen American soldiers on the Cooch farm after the battle.

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched an investigation into these accounts and, this summer, a team of archaeologists from Indiana University of Pennsylvania conducted on-site testing using ground-penetrating radar. Their initial findings have identified several areas which will now be investigated more thoroughly by archaeological excavation.

“The Cooch property is a remarkable tract with a remarkable story. The cultural history of the land encompasses not only resources that can be observed in the landscape, but also those items found below ground – the important and fragile archaeological record which provides information about the history of a place not found in texts or written documents,” said historical archaeologist Wade P. Catts. “Thanks to the Cooch family and their generations of stewardship, the Cooch’s Bridge battlefield is in excellent condition, retaining its context and integrity, and the story of the battle can be told to visitors.”