Mary­land panel on lynch­ing starts year­long study of killings

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Brian Witte

A Mary­land com­mis­sion that will re­search at least 40 lynch­ings com­mit­ted in the state from 1854 to 1933 and make rec­om­men­da­tions about reconcilia­tion held its first meet­ing Mon­day in An­napo­lis.

The Mary­land Lynch­ing Truth and Reconcilia­tion Com­mis­sion meet­ing was largely or­ga­ni­za­tional, with mem­bers choos­ing an act­ing chair­man and dis­cussing future meet­ings.

“We have never re­ally looked at it, looked at the facts,” said Del. Jose­line PeñaMel­nyk, a Demo­crat who spon­sored leg­is­la­tion this year to cre­ate the panel, which she de­scribed as the first statewide com­mis­sion of its kind in the na­tion to take up the is­sue. “This com­mis­sion is go­ing to hold hear­ings and re­gional hear­ings through­out the state of Mary­land where these lynch­ings took place.”

Peña-Mel­nyk is not serv­ing on the com­mis­sion, but de­liv­ered a wel­come to the mem­bers. The mea­sure she spon­sored was ap­proved unan­i­mously by the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly this year.

"The idea is to learn from our his­tory, es­pe­cially given what's hap­pen­ing in the U.S. right now," she said. "We need to have a frank dis­cus­sion about racism and about dif­fer­ent cul­tures and re­spect them."

More than a third of Mary­land’s lynch­ings hap­pened within about a 45-minute drive of Bal­ti­more, The Bal­ti­more Sun reported last year, and lynch­ings have been recorded in 18 of the state’s 24 coun­ties.

Ge­orge Arm­wood was the victim of the state’s last recorded lynch­ing in 1933 in Princess Anne for al­legedly as­sault­ing a 71-year-old white woman.

The com­mis­sion in­cludes his­to­ri­ans from each from the state’s his­tor­i­cally black col­leges: Bowie State Uni­ver­sity, Cop­pin State Uni­ver­sity, Mor­gan State Uni­ver­sity and Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land East­ern Shore. It also in­cludes a state ar­chiv­ist and a staff mem­ber for the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, who will be able to sub­poena wit­nesses or doc­u­ments for the panel’s work.

Elected as act­ing chair was David Fakunle, of the Na­tional Great Blacks in Wax Mu­seum in Bal­ti­more. The panel is sched­uled to sub­mit an in­terim re­port on find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions to the gov­er­nor and state law­mak­ers by Septem­ber 2020. A fi­nal re­port is sched­uled to be sub­mit­ted by De­cem­ber 2021. The law puts the com­mis­sion into ef­fect for three years.

At least 40 African Amer­i­cans were lynched in the state by white mobs from 1854 to 1933, the law says. It ac­knowl­edges that no one was ever charged in con­nec­tion with any of the crimes and that gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties were of­ten com­plicit in com­mit­ting them and con­ceal­ing the iden­ti­ties of those re­spon­si­ble.

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