WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The city of Waterbury recently spent more than $2 million to renovate, reopen and improve the Waterbury Green downtown.
But, a relic of the past there is causing controversy.
Some residents wonder why the new Green includes a wooden post that they think was used to whip slaves as a form of punishment during colonial times. Its presence on the new Green is conjuring up ugly feelings and emotions among some residents.
“This here is like a smack in the face to black people,” said Waterbury resident, Mark Greene.
“I think it’s disrespectful,” said Wesley McBride.
The city decided to ask the Director of the Silas Bronson Library to do historical research and let them know what she finds. Rachael Guest is also known to be a huge Waterbury history buff. She recently wrote a blog about Waterbury’s history with the whipping post on The Green.
“In the 1700s every town had a whipping post in the center of town,” she said.
But, she says the whipping post in Waterbury wasn’t just used to punish slaves. It was also used on residents who didn’t pay their town court costs.
Guest says the city asked her to do research because of pictures on Facebook that are stirring up emotions and strong feelings. They show a performance artist — an African-American woman — whose hands are tied to the whipping post. She’s depicting a slave who just got public lashings there. The person who put those pictures on social media said he wanted to show what really went on during the colonial era.
Guest also included those pictures in her blog. She said she wanted to get people interested in our history.
But, there’s another debate brewing because some people believe the whipping posts were not used for slavery purposes, they believe they were used to post notices from the town government to residents.
Guest says that’s what current leaders thought they were used for until the uproar on social media started.
“So after they stopped using whipping as a form of punishment, they kept using the whipping posts for posting notices,” Guest said.
Waterbury City Hall sent a note to News 8 saying: “We are still in the process of gathering information regarding the whipping post. Until that time, we will not be commenting.”
News 8 asked Guest what she’s going to tell city leaders.
“It was a whipping poll,” she said.