The Delaware museum that flies the Confederate flag split over financial support
Two southern Delaware governments are divided on whether to provide funding to the Georgetown Historical Societyan organization that has previously been denied state funding because it allows a Confederate flag to fly on its property in Museum of Wonders.
Sussex County Council voted unanimously to give the company $2,000, while Georgetown City Council voted narrowly to decline $24,750 in funding. Georgetown will rehear the historical society’s case on Monday.
The controversial Confederate flag has long been a point of contention and remains so in the current era of American racial reckoning. Giving taxpayers’ money to a group that helps fly the divisive flag is seen by many as sympathy for Southern slaveholders.
Based in Seaford Delaware Grays Confederate Veterans Sons Camp #2068 installed and maintains the monument, which “honors” Delaware soldiers who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War since 2007, according to the Delaware Grays website.
Besides the Confederate Monument, the Marvel Museum at 510 S. Bedford St. has several buildings that house collections of vintage cars, Victrolas, telephones, and other artifacts related to Georgetown’s history.
“It’s become a wonderful museum — with a stain,” said Georgetown Councilwoman Christine Diaz Malone, the council’s only person of color. “And if you want to take your stain outside, you should be allowed, but you shouldn’t have the support of your government.”
How Sussex and Georgetown councils voted
The Georgetown Historical Society requested $14,000 from the county for heating and cooling work on June 21.
Councilor John Rieley said the request was premature, coming at the end of the fiscal year. He said he would provide $2,000 and invited the group to return in the new fiscal year. The motion passed quickly, with all council members voting in favour.
The last time Sussex County gave money to the Georgetown Historical Society was in 2017. Former town councilors Sam Wilson, George Cole and IG Burton donated $6,000 from their town accounts for the renovation buildings.
On July 11, the historical society requested $24,750 from the Georgetown Recreation, Education, Arts Trust Fund to mark and seal its parking lot, replace window sashes and install new flooring.
Councilor Sue Barlow was absent from the July 11 meeting. Mayor Bill West and Councilwoman Diaz Malone voted against the measure, while council members Penuel Barrett and Angela Townsend voted in favor. A tie is a failing measure in Georgetown.
Mayor Bill West said he doesn’t believe the city has received any letters supporting funding for the museum. The city received several letters against it, including from the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice and an unnamed person who Diaz Malone said feared retaliation.
“If this funding is approved…it is a direct statement of support for white supremacy, terrorism, systemic generational racist oppression and lynching,” the anonymous writer said.
Several people spoke out against the museum at the meeting. One person, Councilor Townsend’s husband, spoke out on her behalf.
Councilor Townsend said she had “no problem” with the flag and for her it is not a symbol of racism but of history.
“The majority of people,” she said, “are not offended by the flag.”
The removal of the flag was not proposed to the council, but Townsend lamented his fears of multiple monument removals.
“If we remove the flag from the Marvel Museum, what is the next step? Are we going to tear down the Vietnam monument here because people object to it? I mean, where is it going to stop? said Townsend. “Someone might want to tear down the Chad Spicer monument because it doesn’t support blue. Where is it going to end?
Councilor Barrett said he thought providing the funds to the company was “a good idea”.
Mayor West posed several questions to company president Jim Bowden and said it was a difficult decision for him because of their friendship.
Later, after the board voted not to give the company the money, Townsend suggested the company come back and present their case again. The request is on the agenda for Monday’s 7 p.m. council meeting.
“The Confederate flag represents the cause of those who took up arms in defense of the institution of slavery which dehumanized black people, declared them essentially inferior, and treated them with appalling cruelty,” the letter reads.
“Common Cause Delaware stands firmly against racism. We hope the Society’s application for a taxpayer grant will be quickly denied.”
The state no longer funds the museum
In 2019, the state declined to provide approximately $14,000 in funding to the Georgetown Historical Society.
“I will play no role in supporting organizations that continue to celebrate the Confederacy and the traitors who fought for its failed racist ideology of hatred and slavery,” Senator Trey Paradee, D-Dover, said in a statement. released that year.
The state had been called upon to stop funding the company several years earlier.
In 2017, the Lower Sussex NAACP urged Georgetown-area lawmakers Senator Brian Pettyjohn and Representative Ruth Briggs King, both Republicans, to “immediately call the Comptroller General’s office to halt its $11,500 to the Georgetown Historical Society until it removes the Delaware Confederate Monument from its land.”
A few days later, Pettyjohn wrote an op-ed in support of the monument.
“This monument does not glorify (the Confederate soldiers). It is simply an inscription of names, with the Confederate battle flag displayed both on the monument and on a flag next to the Delaware state flag,” he wrote.
Shannon Marvel McNaught reports from Sussex County and beyond. Send tips to [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @marvelmcnaught.