Petition launched to remove Confederate statue, flag in Georgetown

A petition initiative on change.org is calling for the removal of the Confederate flag and monument on the grounds of the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — A line in the sand with ties to slavery and Civil War history has been drawn over a Confederate monument and flag on the grounds of the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown.

A petition movement launched late last week on change.org had garnered more than 1,200 supporters calling for the removal of the Delaware Confederate Monument as of 10 p.m. Monday evening.

“This monument is not in line with the values of Delawareans and celebrates a dark history of treason and oppression in our state. Though we must recognize this history, there is no need to do so in a way that brings glory to a racist and treasonist ideology. This monument must come down,” the petition states.

Andrew Honeycutt of Dover created the petition.

“I’m just a concerned citizen, but I was inspired to make the petition after hearing about the monument from some people in the Dover group Disrupt To Focus, which is the lead protest group in town,” said Mr. Honeycutt. “However the petition is not affiliated with their leadership.”

The monument is behind a series or barns and buildings on the sprawling Marvel Museum property owned by the Georgetown Historical Society.

On museum property since 2007, it is maintained by the Delaware Grays Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 2068, not the Marvel Museum or Georgetown Historical Society. Two flag poles — one flying the Delaware state flag and the other flying one of the many Southern flags that Confederate soldiers fought under — are part of the monument.

Jeff Plummer, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 2068, would not discuss the petition.

“I don’t have any comment on it,” he said Friday.

The petition, “Remove the Confederate Monument in Georgetown, Delaware,” is addressed to the Georgetown Historical Society, Delaware State House, Delaware State Senate, Delaware Governor, Delaware Grays, Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum and Sussex County Return Day Inc.

It calls for “the Delaware General Assembly to adopt a resolution formally condemning the Georgetown Historical Society for its construction and maintenance of this monument.”

Georgetown Historical Society President Jim Bowden took issue with that assumption.

“Well, it’s a non-starter,” said Mr. Bowden. “It is incorrect because either the town or historical society, neither one owns the monument. By agreement, it is sitting on historical society property, but we have no ownership or no maintenance. We do nothing for it.”

A flag linked to the Confederacy waves in the breeze alongside a state of Delaware flag at a monument site at the Marvel Museum in Georgetown. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

The petition demands state grant-in-aid funding continue to be withheld from Georgetown Historical Society until the monument is removed and also asks Sussex County Return Day Inc. not include Georgetown Historical Society in planning the annual Return Day Celebration.

The historical society had its state funding yanked last year after Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, objected due to the monument and flag. The organization, which received about $14,000 in fiscal year 2019, was seeking $30,000.

“I find it offensive that the flag of our great state is flown at the same height as the Confederate battle flag, which is frequently displayed together with the Nazi swastika by white supremacist groups, like the KKK, as a symbol of hate and racial intolerance,” Sen. Paradee said in a July statement.

“I will not play any role in supporting organizations that continue to celebrate the Confederacy and the traitors who fought for its failed racist ideology of hate and enslavement. To recommend a grant in any amount would be a betrayal to my constituents and every friend of mine who descended from African slaves.

“Monuments and flags, like the ones in Georgetown are erected to glorify and honor individuals and events. They serve no ‘educational purpose’ as the defenders of the Georgetown display have claimed in the past. As a private property owner, the Georgetown Historical Society is certainly within its rights to continue to display the flag and monument, but, as long as I am in the State Senate, I will fight to stop state funding to the organization until they decide to remove them.”

Mr. Bowden said the Marvel Museum is not in line for grant-in-aid and noted Sussex County Return Day and Georgetown Historical Society are two separate entities.

The petition also states:

• “Delaware has recently taken steps to end the glorification of racism and racists in our history. Recently, the City of Wilmington took down a statue of Christopher Columbus, whose history of genocide and colonization is well recognized, and plans to take down its statues of Caesar Rodney, famous colonist and slaveowner. These steps represent an acknowledgment that we have glorified these figures for too long and a recognition that, though we must teach the history of our state, doing so does not require us to idolize people who have perpetuated racism and racist ideologies.”

• “In light of these events in our state, as well as a similar trend across the country, we call upon the Georgetown Historical Society to remove its monument to confederate soldiers of Delaware. Although we cannot forget that nearly 2,000 Delawareans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, this monument ultimately glorifies a group of soldiers who committed treason against the United States and fought to continue American slavery. This monument is unacceptable and stands against our values as a state.”

Mr. Bowden said, “So, that is their take on the history, and I don’t buy into that. And many people don’t. We’ll see how it plays out. And it’s a museum, a private entity. I don’t see what legs they have got to stand on.”