The whipping post that was used “disproportionally on Blacks” was removed from outside the Old Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown, Delaware, on Wednesday July 1, 2020.
“This post was used to whip people as young as 10, and was used on both White and Black men who committed crimes of burglaries or other crimes. If women were whipped, it was Black women only,” said David Young, executive director of the Delaware Historical Society.
Delaware was the last state to abolish the use of a whipping post, and the penalty wasn’t removed from state law until 1972.
I grew up in Delaware and was 16 when the issue was raised whether or not to revoke the use of the whipping post. There was popular Wilmington radio show at that time, “It’s Your Nickle” (at the time, a call from a public phone cost five cents).
One evening, the program dealt with the whipping post and asked for listeners to call in with their opinions. I listened in shocked as caller after caller wholeheartedly defended the use of the whipping post and argued that it be kept.
Finally, I called in and, in what must have sounded like a saccharine plea for the common good, reminded the listeners that we are meant to do good and ‘love one another.’ My request for compassion and human decency only seemed to enrage other listens. The calls continued with greater emotion and banter about the need for “more whippings.” As the program ended, the radio host announced the final tally—only one vote to do away with the whipping post.
As I child, I proudly acclaimed Delaware, the “Diamond State,” the “First State,” and, as Thomas Jefferson coined it, “a jewel among the States.”
For the record, three States refused to ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery until the 20th century:
Delaware—February 12, 1901
Kentucky—March 18, 1976
Mississippi—February 7, 2013.
To its credit, in 2012 Delaware became the first state in the nation to outlaw corporal discipline of children by their parents.