Savannah Shepherd ’20 worked with the Delaware legislature and county government for nearly two years to secure a historical marker honoring the memory of Mr. George White, the only documented African-American victim of a lynching in Delaware. Shepherd’s efforts culminated with the installation of the marker on June 23, 2019, at Greenbank Park in Wilmington, near Prices Corner.
The Upper School students and faculty were reminded of Shepherd’s work on Monday, October 14, 2019, during their morning meeting, which was held in the Geipel Center. Abbi Smith, head of the Upper School, opened the meeting by briefly summarizing Shepherd’s journey in her effort to share Mr. White’s story. Smith told the audience: “One student can make a big difference.” Shepherd and New Castle County Public Relations Officer Jessica Gibson took the stage, where both spoke of the steps in the process that eventually led to the public acknowledgement of the lynching.
Gibson lamented that the marker was stolen approximately six weeks after its installation and noted that the theft has been labeled a hate crime—which still remains unsolved. Shepherd emphasized her feelings by saying: “I am not afraid of the person or people who stole the marker, and I have no intention of being silenced.” In fact, after working with County Council and others, a re-dedication of the George White historical marker took place, once again, in Greenbank Park on Sunday, October 20 at 3:00 PM.
Following the recap of the events that led to the creation and installation of the initial marker and its replacement, Gibson introduced the audience to her boss, County Executive Matthew Meyer. He talked of history in terms of stories, many of which are familiar, amazing, and inspirational. But Meyer said that history also has some stories that are too often left untold because of the hatred, mistreatment, or bigotry that they convey. He said, “Both stories have to be told.”
Meyer continued: “I did not know about the story that Savannah has worked to tell when I was in your shoes as a student in Delaware. It is not even a story that I knew of when I became county executive. Savannah led us to the story of this lynching that needed to be told and we responded. Savannah helped us to identify and learn about the tragic account of Mr. White. She made sure that once we knew of this sad part of our history, we honored his memory with a historical marker. We have to remember what happened (to Mr. White) in 1903 and again in 2019. We want to make sure that this historical event is remembered well into the future.”
Meyer concluded by encouraging all students to find a way to get involved in their communities. He suggested: “By attending the ceremony at Greenbank Park and by following Savannah’s lead of civic involvement, you will be taking a leadership role.”
Funding for the new marker was provided by Delaware State University and private donors. The county says new security measures will be utilized to make sure the marker remains, as intended, in Greenbank Park. The marker is located near the sole remaining tower from the original workhouse where Mr. White was being held awaiting his trial prior to the lynching.