State Watch

Maryland governor pardons 34 victims of racial lynching

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Saturday issued posthumous pardons for 34 people who were victims of racial lynchings.

Hogan signed an order during a news conference Saturday afternoon, marking the first time in history that a governor issued a blanket pardon for lynching victims.

The pardon came after the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and students at Loch Raven Technical Academy petitioned Hogan to issue a pardon for Howard Cooper, who was lynched near the Baltimore County Jail in 1885.

Cooper, who was just 15 at the time, was accused of assaulting and raping a white woman, according to the petition, which during that era was often grounds for Black men to be lynched.

A jury found Cooper guilty, which at the time meant an automatic death penalty, and he was transferred to jail while his case was on appeal, but a white mob later removed him from the jail and lynched him.

"Howard's body was displayed so angry white residents and local train passengers could see his corpse. Later, pieces of the rope were given away as souvenirs," the petition states. "Howard's mother, Henrietta, collected her child's remains and buried him in an unmarked grave in Ruxton. No one was ever held accountable for her son's lynching."

After the request, Hogan said he directed his chief legal counsel to review all available documentation and newspaper accounts of lynching in Maryland. As a result, he issued 34 pardons from victims between 1854 and 1933.

"My hope is that this action will at least in some way help to right these horrific wrongs and perhaps bring a measure of peace to the memories of these individuals and to their descendants and loved ones," Hogan said.

According to the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, at least 40 African Americans were lynched in Maryland between 1865 and 1950. More than 4,000 African Americans were lynched during that time in the U.S.

Two years ago, Maryland launched the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the first of its kind in the nation.

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