The ceremony is part of an ongoing effort by the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project that is working to document the history of the lynching in the state.
On Saturday, the governor of Maryland posthumously pardoned 34 victims of racial lynching in the state between 1854 and 1933, saying they were denied due process over the allegations they faced.
It was a one-of-a-kind pardon by a governor of a US state.
Governor Larry Hogan signed the ordinance at an event honoring Howard Cooper, a 15-year-old who was dragged out of a prison and hanged from a tree by a crowd of white men in 1885 before his lawyers could appeal a rape conviction. that an all-white jury reached in a matter of minutes.
“I hope this action will at least in some way help right these terrible wrongs and perhaps bring some peace to the memory of these people and their descendants and relatives,” Hogan said.
Mr. Hogan and other state officials attended a ceremony in Towson, Md., Next to the old jail where Cooper was being held. A historical marker was unveiled at the site as part of a partnership with the Baltimore County Coalition of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, the Equal Justice Initiative and Baltimore County.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones, the state’s first black woman and the first Speaker of the House, described it as an important day when Governor, Attorney General Brian Frosh and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski – all white men – came together to “say it was wrong.” . in order to move on to the next chapter. “
“The commemoration of the site where Howard Cooper was lynched gives us the opportunity to courageously confront the injustices of our past,” Ms. Jones said.
Earlier this year, the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and students at Loch Raven Technical Academy asked Mr. Hogan to issue Cooper’s forgiveness. After receiving the request, the Republican governor asked his chief legal counsel to review all available documentation on racial lynchings in Maryland.
The sign unveiled on Saturday said Cooper’s body had been left hanging from a sycamore tree “so angry white residents and local train passengers could see his corpse.”
“Later, pieces of rope were donated as keepsakes,” the sign reads. “Howard’s mother, Henrietta, collected the remains of her child and buried him in an unmarked grave in Ruxton. No one has ever been held responsible for the lynching of his son. “
The ceremony is part of an ongoing effort by the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, a group of 13 county chapters that work to document the history of the lynching in the state.
In 2019, a marker in Annapolis, the state capital, commemorated the five known black men who were hanged or fatally shot without trial in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
The Equal Justice Initiative has documented more than 6,500 racial lynchings in the country.
Will Schwarz, who is chair of the memorial project, described posthumous pardons as a strong moment in recognizing the truth – a critical step towards reconciliation. He said the story of the racial terror lynching in the United States had been ignored for so long that most people were unaware of the extent of the problem.
“We have a responsibility to try to dismantle this white supremacist machine and that’s a big piece of it, recognizing the violation of civil rights and due process that was part of these terrible lynchings,” Mr. Schwarz.
There have been 40 documented cases of lynching in Maryland, Mr Schwarz said. In some of those cases, the victims have yet to be arrested, so they were not part of the justice system and were not eligible for the posthumous leniency approved by Mr Hogan on Saturday.
Two years ago, state lawmakers created the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is the first of its kind in the country. The commission was formed to investigate the lynchings and include its findings in a report.