SALISBURY, Md. - Controversy is brewing in Salisbury surrounding a historical marker honoring a Confederate general. The marker sits in front of the old Wicomico County Courthouse, less than 100 feet from where slaves were held before auction at the old Byrd Tavern and less than 100 feet from where a white mob held a public lynching.
James Yamakawa, co-founder of Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) Delmarva, has started a petition on Change.org asking the county council to have it removed. Yamakawa said having the marker so close to where African-American’s were lynched and held captive.
“That's the problem I have with it, that sign being there says this is what we call important this is what we want to honor,” Yamakawa said.
It’s not that Yamakawa has a problem with marker itself, he said understands the historical significance the sign has.
“I don't deny that, that is history. I mean this person was born near here is it part of our history. It's the location of the sign next to the courthouse, next to where this lynching, where the slave pens were that is what I have a problem with,” Yamakawa said.
In less than 48 hours the petition had already gained signatures from more than 100 people. Most people we spoke to also agreed it should be removed.
“There is no grey area between right or wrong and it's time where you need to step up and choose right or wrong,” said Joshua Seldon. “This is wrong.”
Others believe the sign should remain untouched.
“It’s been here this long I don't why you want to remove it now, I would just leave it where it is you know, it's history,” said Jeff Jones.
Even if the petition fails Yamakawa said at least now people are talking about it.
”If it leads to the sign coming down great, if it only leads to dialogue and people actually coming to grips with our history that's a good thing,” Yamakawa said.
“I have never heard about this, this is the first time I heard about it and I walk past this building every single day,” said Samuel Corbin.
Yamakawa said they plan on scheduling a town hall so the community can voice what they would want to do with the marker if it is removed.
Wicomico County Council President John Cannon said they may not have the authority to make that decision; rather a historical society may have to make that call.
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