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Last Delaware whipping post removed from public display


By Doug Denison, director of community relations, Delaware Department of State

On July 1, 2020, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs staff members and contractors removed a whipping post that had been displayed on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Court House at 10 S. Bedford St. in Georgetown, Del. The artifact was later transported to the division’s collections facility in Dover where it will be conserved with other historical objects including a whipping post that once stood near The Green in Dover.

Photo of the whipping post formerly located on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Court House in Georgetown, Del.
The whipping post formerly located on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Court House in Georgetown, Del.

Prior to the removal of the post, community members gathered to commemorate the event with song, prayer and remarks and reflections from local leaders.

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.”

Photo of the whipping post after it was removed from its placement on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Court House in Georgetown.
Whipping post after it was removed from its position on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Court House in Georgetown.

“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 division 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.”

The division 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 originally located on the grounds of the Sussex Correctional Institution south of Georgetown. The facility was established in 1931 but the exact date when this particular post was installed is unknown. In 1992, the warden donated the post to the division, and it was installed for public display at the state-owned Old Sussex County Court House 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:

Photo of Dr. Reba Hollingsworth
Dr. Reba Hollingsworth

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.

For press reports about the removal of the whipping post, go to the following:

Here’s a list of statues ordered to be removed by government officials since George Floyd’s death
WXII TV, Winston-Salem, N.C.—July 3, 2020

Delaware just removed its last public whipping post. Here’s a look at its history and significance
Philadelphia Inquirer, Pa.—July 2, 2020

Last whipping post in Delaware removed
Yahoo News, Sunnyvale, Calif.—July 2, 2020

Whipping post removed from Delaware courthouse square
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minn.—July 2, 2020

Blunt Rochester statement on removal of Georgetown Whipping Post
Dover Post, Del.—July 1, 2020

Complete video of the removal of the whipping post
Delaware LIVE, online—July 1, 2020

Delaware city removes whipping post once used to punish Black people from public plaza
NBC News, New York, N.Y.—July 1, 2020

Delaware removes whipping post outside courthouse
CNN, Atlanta, Ga.—July 1, 2020

Delaware residents celebrate departure of local whipping post from public land
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—July 1, 2020

Delaware takes down last whipping post displayed on state grounds
KOKI TV, Tulsa, Okla.—July 1, 2020

Delaware Whipping Post Removed but Corporal Punishment Still Exists in U.S.
Newsweek, New York, N.Y.—July 1, 2020

Whipping post removed from old Sussex courthouse grounds
Delaware State News, Dover, Del.—July 1, 2020

Why removing the whipping post matters for Delaware—opinion
RealClearPolitics, Chicago, Ill.—July 1, 2020

Delaware, the last to abolish state whippings, to remove public whipping post Wednesday
USA Today, McLean, Va.—June 30, 2020

State will take down whipping post in Georgetown and archive it
Town Square Delaware, online—June 30, 2020

Whipping post to be removed from grounds of old Sussex courthouse
Delaware State News, Dover, Del.—June 30, 2020

Whipping post will come down amid community calls, as statues remain in limbo
Delaware Public Media, Dover, Del.—June 30, 20


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