know about Lost opportunity Georgetown Historical Society Confederate flag
Editor’s note: This letter was sent to the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown on July 30:
Dear Mayor and Members of the City Council:
The Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice is disappointed that funding for the Georgetown Historical Society was approved. This letter addresses the next steps the Town has committed to take regarding the Confederate flag/monument issue.
finances are key
Councilwoman Diaz-Malone was 100% correct when she said that it is about money and that the historical society would have a lot more money if the Confederate monument and flag were brought inside a properly preserved museum.
The state has refused to fund the historical society because of the Confederate monument and flag. The Governor of Delaware opposes the monument and the flag. The historical society receives no rent that we know of for “housing” the divisive monument and flag that was provided and apparently owned and maintained by others.
Previous coverage:Georgetown votes to give Confederate Flag museum over $24K
Financial Peril: Can the Historical Society Remain a Going Concern?
Amazingly, the society’s 2020 historical financial statements (for the period ending June 30, 2020, that is, just the initial months of COVID-19’s impact on the numbers) report only $62,755 of total revenue,! with $62,723 of total functional expenses! Total revenue in 2019, the year the state denied funding, was $98,507, a 36% decrease in revenue in one year. Information for 2021 and 2022 should be obtained.
The town gave the historical society $24,000 which, as far as we can determine, was not disclosed as nearly a 40% increase in its 2020 budget and expenses. That indicates severe financial stress.
Can the historical society remain a going concern unless it can raise a lot more money, unlikely without change?
Richmond, Virginia is experiencing a renaissance after placing most of its Confederate memorials in well-preserved museum settings. Georgetown and Sussex County should follow suit.
What could healing mean?
How could proper healing be?
First, he would not ignore Delawareans who fought against their country; he would add context and explanation.
Second, this is a very brief draft of what could be said:
The monument contains the names of Delawareans who left Delaware for other states to enlist in the Confederate Army. Delaware was the only one of the four “slave” states to remain in the United States unable to field a regiment or militia of its citizens to fight the United States.
The plaque placed next to the monument/flag in its former outdoor location stated that as few as 300 Delawareans could have fought for the Confederacy; many sources suggest it may have been around 2,000.
At the time of the Civil War, Delaware had a population of 110,418, which included about 20,000 free African Americans. Another 1,798 Delawareans were enslaved.
There were 11,236 white Delaware soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War, plus 94 sailors and Marines. An additional 954 black First Estate soldiers have been identified as having fought for their country against the Confederacy, with estimates reaching as high as 1,500. Casualties of dead and wounded were high.
More than 10% of Delaware’s population fought for the United States in the Civil War. Remember that only men fought.
Nearby exhibits provide additional information about the First Estate’s involvement in the Civil War. At various times during the Civil War, 33,000 Confederate prisoners of war were held at the Delaware prison camp on Pea Patch Island, known as Fort Delaware. DuPont Company of Delaware was a key supplier to the United States military. Many Delawareans were active in the Underground Railroad. Delmarva native Harriet Tubman became the first woman to lead American troops into battle during the Civil War.
Three Delawareans received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor, for their heroism at the Battle of Gettysburg—three of the 63 Medals of Honor awarded for that great battle. The First Estate more than carried its weight during that terrible war.
The actions of the few Delawareans who fought against the United States can be remembered, as well as the actions of the vast majority who fought for their country.
Importantly, for the city, the historical society, and the county, if the Marvel Museum is to survive, it must change. The financial numbers tell the story. The history accumulated and displayed in the museum should not be missed.
The Alliance offers to work with the people, historical society and stakeholders to advance the removal of divisive symbolism and tell the full story of an era we must not forget. The Alliance has many followers who are residents of the city and even more who frequent Georgetown. Let us work together to cure the mistake made in 2007 and move the historical society forward.
Tom Irvine chairs the history committee of the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice.