Md. set to take a deeper look into history of lynchings
MARYLAND – A state commission tasked with researching public lynchings of African-Americans that happened in Maryland held their first meeting Thursday in Annapolis. The Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the first of it’s kind nationwide and was formed because of legislation that was unanimously passed in the General Assembly and signed into law.
The commission is tasked with holding regional hearings where lynchings have happened and then will be required to make recommendations to the governor about how to go about reconciliation and addressing the legacy of lynchings that are rooted in the spirit of restorative justice.
According to Will Schwarz, president of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and a member of the commission, their mission will help to unearth a part of the state’s dark history.
“We know of at least 41 incidences in Maryland history in which black men were murdered in extrajudicial killings, so it is an ugly part of our history and it needs to be confronted,” Schwarz said.
According to Schwarz, the commission has quite the task ahead of them since there is no blueprint for what they are doing. Speaking about Monday’s meeting Schwarz said they took care of mainly “housekeeping”.
Four public members must still be appointed to the commission after being nominated by the group and then approved by Governor Larry Hogan. The commission will also have to set dates for those public regional hearings to happen.
Even though the commission is still in its infancy, the fact that it exists is something that James Yamakawa with the Wicomico Truth and Reconciliation Initiative believes is a step in the right direction.
“People keep saying that the past is passed and we need to learn from history and not repeat it, but most people don’t know this history and more importantly they don’t understand what it means,” Yamakawa said.
The Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission is set to hold a public launch on Thursday, September 12 at the University of Baltimore Law School. The launch will introduce the Commission to the public, review the history of lynching in Maryland, explain why the Commission is needed and offer an opportunity for interested citizens to provide input to help guide the subsequent work of the Commission.