Delaware museum group loses taxpayer funding over Confederate monument

The Georgetown Historical Society has been getting a state grant for years. But a Confederate monument at its museum led lawmakers to kill the funding.

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A Confederate monument has cost the Georgetown Historical Society its taxpayer-funded grant. (WHYY, file)

A Confederate monument has cost the Georgetown Historical Society its taxpayer-funded grant. (WHYY, file)

A controversial monument to Confederate soldiers in Delaware has cost a group in Sussex County a coveted state grant, two years after critics called on the state to cut off the funding.

The Georgetown Historical Society is one of dozens of Delaware nonprofits that receive money from the state Legislature from a funding source known as Grant-in-Aid.

A white stone monument installed on the grounds of a museum the society runs in the Sussex County town features the Confederate flag. In 2017, amid a national discussion of Confederate monuments, the NAACP called on the state to stop sending state dollars to the society.

But state Sen. Trey Paradee, who represents the Dover area well north of Georgetown, killed the society’s taxpayer funding this summer, saying the government should not support a monument that flies what he calls a symbol of hate.

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It was Paradee’s first legislative season as a member of the Joint Finance Committee that oversees the state budget. One of Paradee’s assignments was to review applications for arts and cultural groups and recommend whether to grant their requests.

The society got $14,443 last fiscal year and wanted $30,000 this year. Instead, Paradee zeroed them out of the budget.

“I just thought it would be a betrayal to my friends, particularly my friends who are the descendants of African slaves,’’ said Paradee, who is white.

“And that flag quite frankly is viewed by many people, including myself, as a sign of hatred and it just perpetuates racial animosity in our society. Whenever you see any white supremacists or the KKK protesting on television, what flag are they carrying? They are carrying that flag alongside the Nazi swastika.”

No lawmakers objected to Paradee’s decision, or even brought it up during a public hearing on June 30, hours before the funding legislation was approved by both the Senate and the House. It was passed in the closing hours of the Legislature’s session.

“I just thought it was inappropriate for the state to continue to provide funding for that property as long as that property continues to have that monument and that flag,’’ Paradee said.

But the Delaware Grays are crying foul. They are the group that commissioned the monument in 2007 to honor the Confederate soldiers known for their gray uniforms.

“It’s arm-twisting to get the museum to see to his way of thinking,’’ said Jeff Plummer, the commander of the Delaware Grays, of Paradee.

“We are going to keep everything as it is, but it’s a shame when you put something historical in a museum and then all of a sudden you try to make things rough on the museum.”

Plummer called the denial of funding yet another step in “Southern cultural cleansing.”

A spokeswoman from the historical society did not return calls seeking comment, but told WBOC-TV the cut in funding would hurt its ability to pay bills and maintain facilities.
Plummer said he has spoken with society officials there and said they are hoping to make up the funding gap through private donations.

This disclosure, WHYY also receives money from the Grant-in-Aid program.

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