Historical marker dedicated to George White, thanks to Delaware teen’s efforts

Savannah Shepherd (center) poses with members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus in front of The Lynching of George White Historical Marker after it was unveiled at Greenbank Park on June 23. Pictured are (from left) Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, Rep. Frank Cooke, Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, Shepherd, Sen. Darius Brown, Rep. Kendra Johnson, and Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman (Scott Goss/Delaware Senate Majority Caucus)

Savannah Shepherd (center) poses with members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus in front of The Lynching of George White Historical Marker after it was unveiled at Greenbank Park on June 23. Pictured are (from left) Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, Rep. Frank Cooke, Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, Shepherd, Sen. Darius Brown, Rep. Kendra Johnson, and Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman (Scott Goss/Delaware Senate Majority Caucus)

On June 23, 1903, George White was lynched near Wilmington, Del. by a white mob.

The black farm laborer was in jail awaiting trial for the murder of a white girl. He pleaded his innocence — but a local minister called for white residents to take vengeance.

A mob stormed the jail, carried White to Price’s Corner and burned him alive.

It is one of more than 4,000 documented lynchings in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950, usually to intimidate African Americans. And it will now be more widely known thanks to Savannah Shepherd.

The 16-year-old learned about the incident in April of last year while visiting the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., which documents African Americans lynched in the U.S. between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War II.

Sen. Darius Brown, Savannah Shepherd and others read the words on The Lynching of George White Historical Marker just minutes after it was unveiled at Greenbank Park on June 23. (Scott Goss/Delaware Senate Majority Caucus)

“We have to remember our past to be able to go forward and grow, and we see a lot of issues today evolved from slavery, in our justice system, so I think it’s important we know what happened in the past and recognize and memorialize those people and not let them be forgotten,” said the Sanford School senior.

Shepherd reached out to the Delaware Public Archives to learn more about White’s killing and made it her mission to get a historical marker placed on the site of the attack.  There were likely many more lynchings in Delaware, but White’s murder remains the only one documented. And while most lynchings were public hangings, lynchings such as White’s can also include any premeditated and torturous acts of murder committed in public by a mob.

With the help of the Delaware Public Archives and state Sen. Darius Brown, D-Dover, the marker was unveiled Sunday in Greenbank Park.

“It was pretty emotional for me just to see everything come together after this long process, and it was exciting to know there was so much interest in it,” Shepherd said. “So it made me feel the state is going to continue to work and hopefully many people in the community will do work for justice in all its different forms.”

Sen. Darius Brown, Savannah Shepherd and others read the words on The Lynching of George White Historical Marker just minutes after it was unveiled at Greenbank Park on June 23. (Scott Goss/Delaware Senate Majority Caucus)

She is now partnering with the Delaware Historical Society and the University of Delaware to continue research on the history of racial terror and lynching in the state in order to uncover incidents that are not yet documented.

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