Former Delaware State University professor Dr. Jahi Issa and Dover resident EShed Alston continued their push for investigations into lynchings in Dover in the 21st Century during Monday night's Dover City Council meeting. Joining them in their cause was local political candidate Doug Beatty, an Independent.
Two local, black intellectuals and one local, white political candidate petitioned Dover City Council to investigate what they believed were a lynching in May and an attempted lynching in September within the city.
Dover resident EShed Alston, former Delaware State University professor Dr. Jahi Issa and state House of Representatives District 34 Independent candidate Doug Beatty also demanded that the city continue to investigate the vulgar leaflet that depicted a racial slur that was circulated within the city beginning late in 2011.
"This flyer says, 'Cleaning up the streets of Dover one nigger at a time,'" Alston said, holding up the leaflet before council during its Monday night meeting. "And it contains an image of a black person hanging from a tree [next to a Nazi symbol]."
Alston said he suspected the city had conducted a "cover up" of what he described as the lynching of Johnny Clark, who was black, in Silver Lake Park, on May 12.
"According to the official city line, he committed suicide," Alston said. "Since then and subsequent to that, we had another individual who was treated in the same way at the same location. This is not an individual circumstance involving Mr. Clark."
After public comment, Alston presented the Dover Post with an affidavit in which Henry Fordham, a black man, alleged that "two crazy white boys" attempted to lynch him in Silver Lake Park on Sept. 21.
"What I'm demanding here is an investigation because our kids mean something to us, gentlemen and ladies," he said. "If this was a situation where this was a Caucasian who had been tortured or killed by black domestic terrorists, then something would be done in the city of Dover."
In response, Dover Police Chief James Hosfelt said after City Council's meeting Monday night that investigations concluded that Clark's death was in fact a suicide while Fordham's allegation that he suffered an attempted lynching was found to be unsubstantiated. He called the persistent belief that a lynching and an attempted lynching had occurred "unfortunate."
Back during public comment, Issa said he had written extensively on the sensitive subject of lynching. His doctorate in American history focused on the South, which officially includes the state of Delaware according to America's geographic divisions.
"This flyer that Mr. Alston showed you started circulating at the end of last year," said Issa, who was fired from DSU after leading a student protest. "I first got a hold of it in February. I started investigating it as a member of the NAACP to see if there was any validity to it.
"I don't know if the city really understands the seriousness of this. But, as an African American intellectual who has a Ph.D. in history, I know what that means," Issa said. "Lynchings are political. They're more than just a murder. And they have a long history of white supremacist behavior. I never thought I would in my lifetime be an advocate against this, which intellectuals like W.E.B. DuBois [fought] a hundred years ago. Here we are again."
Issa was arrested during a student protest March 1, 2011 for what DSU officials said was disorderly conduct. He was subsequently fired in August.
Beatty, of Magnolia, said he first learned of the alleged lynching in May, the abduction in September and the racist leaflet during a Dover Post candidates forum held Oct. 9. That is when Alston asked Beatty, and Republican incumbent State Rep. Donald Blakey for the 34th District and Democratic challenger Ted Yacucci if they were aware of the alleged lynching and attempted lynching. None of them had heard and were perplexed by Alston's question in the 21st Century.
"I've spoken to the second victim on the phone, I've interviewed fourteen people on the street and I've talked to some of our legislators," Beatty said. "One of the state senators said this was all B.S. and somebody was trying to start a race riot. If that's true, I want to know who."
Beatty added that members of Clark's family and other community members did not believe that Clark committed suicide.
Hosfelt said Dover Police conducted a thorough investigation into the death of Clark as well as a review of that investigation and concluded that his death was in fact a suicide.
"It's an unfortunate thing," he said.
City police also investigated the September incident alleged by Fordham, Hosfelt said. Police first contacted Fordham at 6 a.m. Sept. 21 because a resident reported he was in her backyard acting irrational.
Fordham's initial report was that he was kidnapped from the halfway house he lives in on North New Street, Hosfelt said. He said two white men forced entry into his house at 15 N. New Street and removed him at gunpoint and drove him down to Silver Lake to try to drown him.
"When we got there, his clothes were dry and the [New Street] homeowner rebutted claims about anyone invading her home," Hosfelt said. 'Then, he changed his story to he was walking his dog when two white men drove up in a pickup truck and [forcibly took] him."
Police poked holes in that story when the New Street homeowner said Fordham did not own a dog, Hosfelt said.
Police then transported Fordham to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital for treatment, but he became argumentative with staff and fled before he could be treated, Hosfelt said.
As for the racist flyer, police had no leads, Hosfelt said. Anyone with information was urged to contact police.
Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. said he had the utmost confidence in Dover Police's investigations. And the racist flyers would not be tolerated, he added.
"We take this stuff very seriously," he said. "We want Dover to be a good place for our citizens to live."