The controversial historic marker erected last month in honor of pro-slavery newspaper editor Henry Reeves has been removed by the Village of Greenport, officials said Wednesday.
The marker, which recognized Mr. Reeves as editor and publisher of the former Greenport weekly newspaper The Republican Watchman was removed by the village around 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, village administrator Paul Pallas said.
Press Club of Long Island historic sites chairman Bill Bleyer, who unveiled the marker, asked the village to remove the plaque Wednesday, village officials told The Suffolk Times.
The removal of the marker comes after village residents voiced concerns in a series of posts on social media in recent days. Steve Wick, executive editor of The Suffolk Times and a member of the Press Club of Long Island’s Journalism Hall of Fame, questioned the group’s decision in a column Monday. He noted in the piece that former Newsday reporter John McDonald returned previous awards he’d won from PCLI in protest.
On Tuesday former Greenport mayor Dave Kapell spoke out against the sign on Facebook, echoing concerns of many other village residents and business owners, including Marc LaMaina of Lucharitos, who called Mr. Reeves’ pro-slavery writings “disgusting.” Southold Town supervisor candidate Greg Doroski also issued a statement calling for the sign’s removal.
In his editorials in the Watchman, Mr. Reeves, a one-time Southold Town supervisor, criticized the Emancipation Proclamation and expressed support of Southern states seceding from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War. He was jailed in 1861 by the Lincoln administration for sedition for writing pro-South editorials.
When the statue was erected, Mr. Bleyer said the marker was intended to recognize his commitment to the First Amendment.
“…It’s important to reassert that journalists have a First Amendment right to assert their opinion, no matter how unpopular it may be,” he said last month.
The Greenport marker was the fifth marker in PCLI’s historic sites program, which recognizes journalists across Long Island. The group has honored the founding site of Newsday in Hempstead Village; the founding site of the Long Islander by Walt Whitman in Huntington; the Sag Harbor site where David Frothingham founded the first newspaper on Long Island; and a Roslyn Harbor site recognizing William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post.
Caption: The site where a sign recognizing the former location of the Republican Watchman and its editor Henry A. Reeves briefly stood. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)