Maryland Governor Pardons 34 Victims of Lynching

About a decade in the past, Tina Johnson of Princess Anne, Md., was taking a university course on the historical past of her state when she got here throughout a well-known identify.

A passage in her textbook mentioned {that a} younger man named George Armwood was the final Black individual to be lynched in Maryland. In class, Ms. Johnson raised her hand. “That’s my cousin,” she recalled saying to the professor.

Ms. Johnson, now 35, had heard about Mr. Armwood as soon as earlier than: She was a toddler when her grandmother Mary Braxton informed her concerning the day he was accused of attacking a white girl in 1933.

Ms. Braxton, who was Mr. Armwood’s first cousin, informed Ms. Johnson that he had asserted his innocence and tried desperately to cover from the police. He was finally taken to a jail in Princess Anne, the place a lynch mob discovered him.

“He was beaten, stabbed, and kicked, before he was tied to the back of a truck and driven to the place he would be hanged,” in response to a state history archive.

Now, 88 years later, Mr. Armwood has been formally pardoned — together with 33 different Black males and boys who have been lynched in Maryland between 1854 and 1933.

“My hope is that this action will at least in some way help to right these horrific wrongs,” Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, mentioned in a statement, “and perhaps bring a measure of peace to the memories of these individuals, and to their descendants and loved ones.”

Mr. Hogan introduced the pardons at a information convention Saturday in Towson, Md., the place a plaque was erected in reminiscence of one other lynching sufferer, Howard Cooper, who was 15 when he was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in 1885.

After Howard was convicted by an all-white jury, his attorneys supposed to attraction his case to the United States Supreme Court, in response to the state archive. Instead, a lynch mob broke into the jail, dragged him from his cell and hanged him from a tree.

Last 12 months, eighth graders at Loch Raven Technical Academy in Towson took an curiosity in Howard Cooper whereas taking a category on juvenile justice. They discovered that he had been a teen, like them.

“When they were presented with Howard’s story, they really saw it as a way to make a change and to use their voice,” mentioned Michelle St. Pierre, who teaches the course. She mentioned the scholars had been engaged on a petition for a pardon when the pandemic interrupted them. On Saturday, Mr. Hogan mentioned their work had impressed him to behave.

“I was just pleased that he heard my students’ voice,” Ms. St. Pierre mentioned. “They wanted it to be on record that this case was unjust.”

The pardons have been additionally prompted by the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, a nonprofit group that has been working to carry the tales of lynching victims to gentle. Will Schwarz, the president of the group, wrote a letter to Mr. Hogan in February urging him to posthumously pardon Howard Cooper.

“It’s a step toward changing the narrative and correcting the history that has been misrepresented for so long,” Mr. Schwarz mentioned in an interview. “I hope it helps people understand how that original sin continues to degrade all our lives.”

Ms. Schwarz mentioned his work was impressed by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit authorized advocacy group that has documented more than 4,000 racial terror lynchings within the United States between 1877 and 1950.

The extrajudicial killings have been devices of terror, typically performed as public spectacles in full view of, or with cooperation from, legislation enforcement. Many of these have been documented by Ida B. Wells, a Black journalist who risked her personal security to analyze lynchings within the period of Jim Crow.

In 2019, Maryland launched a reality and reconciliation committee to analysis lynchings within the state, of which there have been a minimum of 40. The 34 males and boys who have been pardoned on Saturday had been arrested, charged or jailed earlier than they have been killed.

They included James Carroll, who was kidnapped from a prepare and hanged from a tree in Point of Rocks, Md., in 1879; George Briscoe, who was being taken to a jail in Annapolis when he was lynched in 1884; William Andrews, who was seized by a mob instantly after his trial in Princess Anne in 1897; and Mr. Armwood, who tried in useless to cover underneath a mattress when a lynch mob burst into his jail cell in 1933.

As far as Ms. Johnson may recall, her grandmother Ms. Braxton, who died in 2011, talked about Mr. Armwood solely as soon as. “I remember that one teardrop that fell from her eye,” Ms. Johnson mentioned.

Ever since she got here throughout his identify in school, Ms. Johnson has been working to find extra about Mr. Armwood’s life. He was identified for his fixed whistling and singing, she mentioned. He had a gentle spot for the gospel track “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”

Ms. Johnson mentioned it was essential to acknowledge the historical past of lynchings within the United States. “The past becomes the present very easily,” she mentioned, pointing to current police killings of Black folks. “And that means that the past stories are still relevant.”

She added that the overwhelming majority of individuals who perpetrated lynchings within the United States weren’t held accountable, whereas households of the victims have been left to take care of grievous losses.

“Now he’s been pardoned,” Ms. Johnson mentioned of Mr. Armwood. “But what kind of restitution was there?”

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