The sign, which is outside the Green Man pub in Ashbourne, hit the headlines after a statue in Bristol depicting slave trader Edward Colston was toppled during the Black Lives Matter protests on Sunday.
A petition calling for the removal of the sign has so far been backed by almost 45,000 people, with organisers describing the head as ‘disgusting racist imagery’.
However, now a counter-petition organised by people hoping to save the sign has been signed by more than 4,500 people.
They say the caricature of a black man’s head which sits atop a sign across St John’s Road is part of the history of the town.
In the wake of the protests, Derbyshire Dales District Council said they would remove the head with immediate effect, but it was taken away by villagers before this could happen.
A sign saying 'Save Me' was hung from the head on Monday evening before it was taken down.
No definite account of the history of the sign exists, with some suggesting it may be a caricature of a servant of Sir Walter Raleigh and others a reference to the Shakespeare play Othello.
The sign was first erected around 200 years ago between the Royal Green Man and the Blackamoor's Head Family and Commercial Hotel, now recognised as the longest single inn pub name in the UK.
The sign was Grade II listed in 1951 and upgraded to Grade II* in 1974, meaning it can only be permanently removed with the agreement of Historic England or the Government.
After removing in on Monday evening local man Shaun Redfern posted pictures of the operation on social media.
Writing on Facebook, he said: “Can’t take it down before we do. Proud to see Ashbourne has come together to keep our head safe.”
The petition to remove the head can be found at www.change.org/p/sarah-dines-remove-the-racist-caricature-of-a-black-man-s-head-from-the-green-man-sign-ashbourne.
The petition to keep the head can be found at www.change.org/p/derbyshire-council-petition-to-keep-the-black-s-head-in-ashbourne.