Victims of lynching in Salisbury, memorialized with a ceremony
SALISBURY, Md. – A spot where a controversial plaque dedicated to the memory of a Confederate General once stood, and the place where violent racial lynching’s took place is now home to a much different type of remembrance.
Over 90 years ago next to the Wicomico County Courthouse, a black man was lynched. On Saturday, his life and the life of the other victims of lynching in Salisbury were memorialized in a ceremony.
Community members, county officials, family members and activists gathered at Tidalhealth Saturday afternoon. They began their walk on the same path some of the victims took, as they were dragged to their violent deaths. However, descendants of the lynching victims tell us, this is more than just a horrific event being memorialized. “It is healing to see the community come together, all races all ages to acknowledge what happened,” says Jeannie Jones, a descendant of lynching victim Matthew Williams.
The ceremony brought together people from all walks of life. Mayor Jake Day and other county officials tell us, they were honored to be apart of the day. A day filled with bittersweet tears shed by family members, and community members alike. “We’re gonna talk about it, every time we walk down town, every time I come out on my lunch break, I want to see this lynching memorial plaque here for my ancestors,” says LaTanya Christopher, a descendant of lynching victim Garfield King.
However, the events of the day surrounded a years long effort by the equal justice initiative, community activists and family members. The unveiling of a plaque, which we’re told is intended to not only honor the three documented victims of racial lynching, but to remind Wicomico County of the past. “You at least have to digest that not only did it happen, but even work to have an understanding whether you agree or not,” says Jones.
Poems and songs were also performed to honor the day, something that could be heard from blocks away. Amber Green with the Fenix Youth Project, and a community activist led a Black Lives Matter chant to close out the ceremony, echoing from every street corner. Meanwhile, Jones and her daughter recited an original poem which honored the day as well, and called for change in the community.
Many of those who attended also tell us, there is still work to be done in the community, but until then this is just the start of remembering a hurtful past, recognizing a present where racial injustice still plagues our country, and preparing for a brighter future.
The event was concluded with the singing of the hymn, “Lift Evr’y Voice and Sing.”
Speakers do agree that Saturday’s ceremony does not change what happened, but they were happy to be able to bring together the community, and bring justice for the families of the victims.
Part of Saturday’s ceremony also included a symbolic soil collection from the exact spot where one of the lynching victims was killed. A jar for each of Salisbury’s three lynching victims was filled with the soil.
Looking ahead, organizers say they plan to keep putting together events like this to honor victims, and bring people together.