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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan posthumously pardoned 34 lynching victims who were killed across the state between 1854 and 1933, saying the historic move is an attempt to “right these horrific wrongs.”
Hogan on Saturday issued the blanket pardons for the 34 victims — including a 15-year-old black boy who was hanged by a white mob in 1885 — because they were denied legal process and equal protection of law, marking the first such move by a governor of a US state.
“Today, we are once again leading the way as we continue the work to build a more perfect union,” the Republican governor said.
“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 signed an order pardoning the victims of the “racial terror lynchings” at an event in Towson for Howard Cooper, a black teen who was dragged from a county jail and hanged from a sycamore tree outside the Towson jailhouse by a white mob in 1885.
Cooper had been convicted by an all-white jury who found him guilty of raping Katie Gray, a white teenager, the Baltimore Sun reported.
But neither Gray nor Cooper testified that Gray was raped, and Cooper was sentenced to death by hanging. He was then lynched on July 13, 1885, before his attorneys could appeal his conviction for assault and rape, the newspaper reported.
Hogan said he was motivated in part by a petition from students at a Towson school who called for Cooper to be pardoned “in light of the fact that he was never afforded due process under the law,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
A marker was unveiled at the site in Towson next to the former jailhouse was Cooper was held. Hogan then read the names of Cooper and 33 others pardoned by his order, including a 13-year-old boy named Frederick “whose full name was lost to history,” he said.
Hogan’s order said the boy was hanged from a tree in or near Cecilton in 1861 after he was arrested for attempted rape.
The president of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project said the pardons marked a pivotal moment toward long-overdue reconciliation, but the head of Maryland’s NAACP chapter slammed Hogan’s move as “political posturing,” CNN reported.
“If the governor’s going to do something, he should with his power as governor look at the many broken systems based on the same type of vitriol, contempt, hatred, that caused the murders of these gentlemen,” NAACP Maryland president Willie Flowers said. “Every system that has been broken, as the governor of Maryland, he alone can change all of it.”
Flowers also questioned Hogan’s motive as the term-limited governor may be looking ahead to the national stage.
“Celebrating himself by reminding people that lynchings happened is not the best thing you can do, it’s actually the least that he could do,” Flowers told CNN.
A spokesperson for Hogan did not respond to Flowers’ claims, CNN reported Sunday.
With Post wires
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