George White was murdered by a crowd in 1903
Some light fell on a dark chapter of history this weekend, thanks to the efforts of a local high school student.
On Sunday, June 23, the Delaware Public Archives revealed its latest historic marker in Pike Creek, commemorating the 1903 lynching of George White, a black farm worker who was accused of murdering a white woman.
Despite no outstanding evidence to prove his guilt, a mob hundreds strong dragged White from his cell at the Pike Creek workhouse and burned him alive at a spot near where the assault was said to have happened.
White’s body was ripped to pieces, with parts taken as souvenirs.
White was one of over 4,000 identified victims of racial terror nationwide in the years following the abolition of slavery between 1877 and 1950.
The incident first came to the attention of Sanford School senior Savannah Shepherd during a visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala.
The memorial is the first nationwide site dedicated to the roughly 4,300 documented racial terror lynchings of African Americans between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War II.
After returning home, Savannah set out to learn more about the incident, founding the Delaware Social Justice Remembrance Coalition and working to have the marker placed.
She eventually approached Sen. Darius Brown, who agreed to cover the cost of the marker and advance Savannah’s efforts.
Speaking at Sunday’s ceremony before hundreds of community members from throughout the state and region, Savannah said our country has come far, yet is still plagued by the stain of racism and injustice.
“Our shared history as Americans includes some very dark chapters and we must be brave enough to confront those injustices if we are ever going to move forward together,” she said. “Recognizing the murder of Mr. White as a horrific act of racism and suppression is an important step in that process and I’m grateful we live in a state where that can be acknowledged.”
Congresswomen Lisa Blunt Rochester celebrated Shepherd’s efforts, noting that bringing the event to light is necessary in our nation’s current political climate.
“She didn’t just think about it, or talk about it, or be depressed about it – she did something about it,” she said, adding that as a child she’d heard rumors of a lynching in the area but didn’t know the full story.
“Thank you for your leadership, your vision, and your tenacity to make it happen,” Rochester said.
A portion of soil from the site will be collected and stored as part of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project, which collects soil from lynching sites to create a “national memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice.”
The marker is located at Greenbank Park in Pike Creek, near Price's Corner, on the grounds of the former workhouse.