Caroline County: A “Modern-day Lynching”

A national horror has come to the Eastern Shore, specifically in Greensboro, Maryland in Caroline County. For those who do not know, a 19-year-old African American named Anton Black died on September 15, 2018, in Greensboro in the presence of one on-duty police officer in addition to off-duty officers. Some, both black and white, are calling it a modern-day lynching, but those utterances are not making it into the news, not yet.

The details are still murky and unofficial. Four months after the day Anton yelled out for his mother’s help while she was helpless to protect him, the truth about what happened is far from widely known. Some details are out there – witness accounts, even a lengthy police body cam video, seen by only a few. At this writing, official police and medical reports such as toxicology have not been released, and the body cam video has not been released to the public.

But some close to the situation who were either witnesses or were permitted to view the video, are calling it a modern-day lynching at the hands of police. They cite chokeholds, tasering, and horrifying angry chases by a mob of policemen (if four can constitute a mob), leading some to say this was “like a lynching,” with others calling it just that, a lynching.

Due process for the family has been a struggle, and some unique circumstances have terrorized a community, just what lynchings historically were meant to do. It’s complicated and some readers may take strong exception to the term modern-day lynching, especially since the full story has not been revealed.

But reach back into history. When African Americans were being killed by lynching in America back in the first half of the 20th century, the term lynching was plain and simple and obvious, and used before full stories were ever revealed, if ever. And lynching by its nature deprives a person not only of due process but also their life. So, is it lynching even if we don’t know all the facts? It was back then, so today people can also call what they see as a lynching. America does not want to hear the word, they don’t believe it is applicable to today, not in the 21st century.

Well, let us think about that.

Just what is a lynching? Seems strange to be even considering this question in this day and age. Most everyone understands it means the killing of a person by a mob without our systems of law. And while lynching has long been a part of American history, the word lynching morphed into something different by the end of the 19th century to be attributed to the dizzying numbers of African Americans killed in this country. Though many people think of lynchings as hangings, scholars know lynchings are any form of murder.

Lynchings as hangings are what we typically remember because most people know about the spectacle lynchings, including huge crowds surrounding a core of perpetrators doing the killing. But lynchings could be far smaller, involving fewer people, different forms of death, from beatings, burnings, shootings, and more.

Most definitions are similar, fairly simple in wording. Wikipedia provides a slightly expanded definition, describing a lynching as a “premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group,” with the term extrajudicial killing defined as “the killing of a person by governmental authorities or individuals without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.” The word “group” is less defined, left to interpretation. In the early 20th century, the mob of a lynching was characterized differently by various sources, but a mob could be as few as three participants. The interesting part of the Wikipedia definition is the inclusion of “governmental authorities” in the list of perpetrators, as if to remind us that anyone can be guilty of lynching.

There are some differences between today and then. The biggest difference is the issue of intent or premeditation.  Back in the early 20th century, intent was clear.  It was obvious the killing was intentional. Sometimes lynchings were a way of deflecting guilt or to vent an anger or  threaten and warn African Americans. Today, intent is not so obvious and is questionable. Officers may say, “we did not intend for him to die, but merely to detain.” But the chase resembles the chases after African Americans back when lynchings were indeed intended.

Another difference is the involvement of law enforcement. In the early days, law enforcement typically gave at least an impression of trying to enforce the law and prevent lynchings. Some were even successful. Members of law enforcement certainly participated, and the appearances of protection and prevention were questionable.  But those lynchings involved a wide range of community members. Today, in cases of law enforcement, in a world where there are both good and bad law enforcement, life is much more murky.

The circumstances of Anton’s death had other characteristics of lynchings, including the eerie silence in the aftermath of the death, and a false portrayal of normalcy. Following Anton’s death, the family was left feeling isolated for nearly four months. Few media covered the story, and what was reported was unverifiable. Community members felt an uneasy quiet in the streets of Greensboro, made considerably worse because community officials refused to put the police officer involved in the case on administrative leave pending investigation. The result was a real threat of danger, particularly since the officer in question was known virtually nationwide for brutality. For the African American residents of Greensboro and the environs, those four months must have felt like an earlier century and another place.

It took time for support and help to reach the family of Anton Black. For the family, the desperation of relief could be heard in their voices when assistance finally came to push for due process and justice for Anton. With considerable difficulty, the officer in question was finally placed on administrative leave near the end of that four-month struggle. But it was only one step in a steep and twisted staircase.

In this article, you won’t find the details you are likely looking for. That was by design. Instead, it is important to consider what it means for a family member to see their loved one die by what they see as a mob of law enforcement, for a family who cannot fathom why it was necessary that Anton die. They saw a modern-day lynching. Who among us are prepared to call it anything different?

 

Linda Duyer

 

Photo courtesy Facebook/Coalition for Justice for Anton Black (this photo of Anton seems to be most often used by media, perhaps because it is the most compelling)
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Posted in Maryland, People | Tagged , ,

“The complex task of writing history”

About a year or so ago I was asked to write the narrative about lynching history for a historical marker proposed for Salisbury, Maryland.

This task was THE most procrastinated of all my procrastinations throughout 2018, and frankly, I puzzled over why. This was a subject I knew, I’ve written about it — I have researched, conducted interviews, self-published a book about this history. This local lynching history has occupied my mind for much of my life. I even have another draft book in the works on the subject. So why did I hesitate?

Even as I recently completed the draft about the history of three lynchings of Salisbury for this historical marker, I felt the strong feeling of brakes, as if my brain was trying to stop me or at least slow me down. It wasn’t until reading the December 18, 2018 article “The complex task of writing history” by Nedra Rhone in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did I fully understand that unconscious hesitancy.

Just how does anyone write the less than 300 words limited by historical markers, on any historical topic, let alone about the story of a history so illegally violent that continues to resonate amid the present? Sure, I knew that the narrative would be reviewed, perhaps debated, or even thrown out for another narrative. But these ponderings, this article by Rhone, and other considerations have prompted this musing over the matter.

Written history is inherently biased due to so many factors. A local historian friend not long ago reassured my angst over my ongoing effort to write a book on the history of Salisbury by saying that many written histories are needed because the lessons of history benefit from different points of view, different angles and emphasis, and newly discovered information. I am paraphrasing, but nonetheless, her kind words emboldened me to continue the work. Still, I cannot deny that there is a daunting responsibility in writing history, and that responsibility is not a welcomed thought – it can put on the brakes.

Timing and “other considerations” have contributed to these musings. Recently I recommended that there be a planned program for new historic markers in Salisbury. The city is experiencing growth and change, and amid all the redevelopment there are challenges and opportunities for interpreting the city’s nearly-300-year-old history. With paths and spaces undergoing change, I felt it important that the city examine if and what history should be displayed, and done so with a coordinated effort. Separate from this, the long-discussed historical marker about the city’s lynching history is again being discussed.

To all of this, I thank Nedra Rhone for the reminder of the need to examine the issues. Rhone’s subheading, “As more voices weigh in on historical markers, every word is under extra scrutiny,” represents a caution that the people of Salisbury need to consider.

Rhone noted that communities nationwide are “re-examining their approach to creating historical markers,” focusing on “underrepresented stories,” and introducing “more inclusive views” of history. Inherent to the caution is sensitivity, not just to past history or to the people of the present, but to the people of the future who encounter these markers.

Sometimes it helps to imagine that future. In 2032, when Salisbury turns 300, what will the city be like, and how will we remember those 300 years?  Today, we have the opportunity to do all we can to shape that future; the question posed is what shape will that future present to our descendants.  I think this worth careful thought.

Linda Duyer

Posted in Maryland, People, Uncategorized | Tagged

Rev. Charles Albert Tindley: “Prince of Preachers” & Composer

Delmarva Eastern Shore’s African American History is best known as the birthplace of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. But there were many more influential African Americans from the Eastern Shore.  Among them was the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933), often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers.”

Tindley was born near Berlin, Maryland to Charles and Hester Tindley. His father was enslaved, his mother was free. Hester died when he was young and he was raised by his mother’s sister Caroline Miller Robbins in order to maintain his status as free.  Tindley married Daisy Henry, and they moved to Philadelphia in 1875, where he studied to become a Methodist minister while working as a caretaker for the East Bainbridge Street Church. He was appointed by the local bishop to several churches until finally becoming pastor at East Bainbridge. Eventually he relocated to first the East Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church and then the Tindley Temple. His ministry grew substantially. His wife died in 1924; and three years later Tindley remarried to Jenny Cotton.

In addition to being a popular minister, Tindley was a gospel composer, his gospel hymns were widely published. Most notable among his compositions were “I’ll Overcome Someday” and “Stand by Me.”

Posted in Churches, Maryland, People, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

1931 – Employment

Years ago I ran across this article in the Sept. 26, 1931 Afro-American newspaper of Baltimore. How prevalent was this practice and how it was abused, I do not know. However, I am also aware of a practice in the early 20th century to “hire out” African Americans from institutions from the western shore to the Eastern Shore, particularly youth who were prevented from attending school as was required.  My copy of this 1931 article is poor quality, so I will include the text of the article here:

200 Men Taken for Work on Eastern Sho’

One of these, who Escaped, Tells Story to the AFRO

Pay $1 per day

Farmer Paid Agent $1.60 a Head

That 200 men were taken to the Eastern Shore last week and sold to farmers at $1.60 per man as corn shockers, was revealed when one of them, who escaped from the “arrangements” and returned to the city, reported the matter to the AFRO-AMERICAN, this Monday.

The AFRO informant and three others got away, he said, only after the wife of the farmer pleaded with her husband to allow them to leave as she feared they, being Baltimore men, would do them harm.

According to the story told the AFRO-AMERICAN, 200 men were recruited by the Chesapeake Shipping and Employment Office at 426 E. Pratt Street. They were told by agents that they were needed at Church Hill, Md., for work on farms and would be paid $1 per day. They were ferried to the Eastern Shore where some fifty white farmers met the boat to receive them.

They were called from the crowd of 200 in fours and fives, the informant said, and as farmers walked up and paid down the $1.60 each the men were turned over to them.

Under the “arrangement” made with the agents the farmers told them that they could not leave until the shocking and other farm work wanted of them had been completed.

The AFRO informant stated that instead of corn shocking the first day he was put to work picking tomatoes. A woman who was already working on the place told him that there was but a slim chance of his getting the $1 per day. The first picking of tomatoes were not accepted by the canning factory that day, she said, and it had been her experience that unless the tomatoes were sold there would be no money with which to pay hands.

Before leaving Baltimore, he said, they were told to report at the employment office at 1:00 o’clock. After staying there all the afternoon without food they were lined up for the trip across the bay at 3:30 and arrived at a little shanty near the wharf at 5:30. After all of them had been paid for by the farmers, he said, they were taken 36 miles on a train.

It was not until the following morning early that they were given anything to eat. They were awakened at 4:00 a.m. This breakfast consisted of oatmeal without milk, black bread and water. By 5:00 o’clock, they were at work. At dinner very fat meat replaced the oatmeal, and work ended at 7:30 that evening.

After being told they would have to stay, the AFRO informant declared that they decided to make an attempt to leave that night. When everything was quiet, they slipped up and started to the road. To their surprise the farmer was standing in the shadow of the porch and called: “Where are you d— darkies going?”

He was about to order them back when his wife came out and pleaded with him, telling that they were from Baltimore, and “niggers in Baltimore kill white people.” After a parley they were allowed to leave the place.

Investigation by AFRO-AMERICAN reporters revealed that the employment agency on Pratt Street is a private agency through which employers are sent to different parts of the state. Officials there said that the price the farmers paid included fees and transportation for taking the men down there.

 

September 26, 1931  Afro-American

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Maryland | Tagged

Frederick Douglass in Cambridge, Maryland

Frederick Douglass, as prominent an American historical figure as presidents and the like, must not have slept much, for he was everywhere, doing everything.

The man must have known the railroads and steamships better than anybody, for he spent the better part of his adult life traveling in America and abroad. How did he find the time?

That question is not the focus of this post. But as historians delve more and more into the sources detailing Douglass’ life, it becomes clear he was a man on the move, and more is coming to light as to the places he traveled and the connections he made.

One of those places was Cambridge, Maryland, in Dorchester County. That county has long been focused on the history and its promotion about Harriet Tubman, as the county of her birthplace and for her famous participation in the underground railroad. Across the Choptank River, Talbot County has celebrated its most famous historic figure and native son, Frederick Douglass.  History enthusiasts from those counties have understood the significance of both historic figures hailing from adjacent counties, but until now, neither knew that Douglass ventured into Dorchester County.

Well known is Douglass’ 1877 visit to Talbot County, returning to visit his former master and others in the area.  It was an emotional return to the Eastern Shore for Douglass and widely reported. The visit may have emboldened Douglass to visit more of the region of his birth, for two-to-three months later, he visited Cambridge, Maryland.

Some 141 years after his visit to Cambridge, that history was no longer remembered, until Sept. 21 of this year when both John Muller and Linda Duyer presented this history there, at the Harriet Tubman Organization Museum on Race Street.  This talk was not planned to coincide with Douglass’ visit, but it was a fitting timing, as Douglass arrived on Sept. 22, 1877, walked historic downtown Cambridge and spoke to a large crowd. And if this wasn’t enough, he returned the next year for yet another talk in Cambridge.

Both Linda Duyer and John Muller held interviews with Delmarva Today host Don Rush of Delmarva Public Radio out of Salisbury University.  The two interviews straddled the date of the presentation at Cambridge.  In his interview, John spoke more about the context of Douglass’ visit to Cambridge, as well as touching on his own book about Douglass’ life in Washington, D.C.  The links to these two interviews are provided below:

http://www.delmarvapublicradio.net/post/delmarva-today-10-12-2018

http://www.delmarvapublicradio.net/post/delmarva-today-10-05-2018

 

 

Posted in Cemeteries, Churches, Maryland, People | Tagged , , , ,

Compelling photo: 1933 Princess Anne, MD

I recommend you use earphones while viewing this video. It isn’t long, about 10 minutes and will likely seem boring to you. I also apologize for my narration.  I speak slowly, much slower than normal, but only because I oddly spoke slower because of staring at the photo which is the subject of this video.  I created it for a Oct. 13th Maryland Lynching conference to be held at the Reginald Lewis Museum. I cannot make it to the event but decided to create this, whether or not they show it.  I would understand if they don’t, as the quality of the photo in question is poor.  It doesn’t look like much, but it just may be the only known photo taken on the night George Armwood was lynched in Princess Anne.  There are photos of his brutalized body, taken the next day. But there are no good quality photos of the mob during the night of the murder.

Click on the image or follow this link:https://www.dropbox.com/s/z0h1oa6bs9zdv0g/1933%20Princess%20Anne%20lynch%20mob%20photo.mp4?dl=0

…..Linda Duyer

Posted in Uncategorized

The 1924 news of the KKK

It has been some time since I’ve written to this blog, but here goes.

This past weekend events in Charlottesville, Virginia has reared the ugly face of fear and the KKK (and other similar extremist groups).  Granted a permit to peaceably assemble on Saturday, the group entered town Friday night, marching through with torches in a menacing show that countered their peaceful intentions.  No wonder everything went deadly wrong.

Some journalists are looking back at the history.  Giving that sort of attention is both good and bad, but sadly it has to be done.  Today people may think the extremists are just nuts and don’t mean harm.  They mean harm.  At the very least they must know the rhetoric makes them fierce. For the rest of us, we’re just wondering if we’re in some bad movie in which none of this exists in our new century.

Back in 1924, at the height of the KKK’s resurgence, a local newspaper, the Maryland and Herald of Princess Anne, devoted a whole page every week to the KKK.  It’s shocking to see if you look at it up close.  It is all generally national “news” involving the KKK, though some were regional.  And there were ads selling everything from the infamous robes, to sheet music, to pocket knives, to hood ornaments.   Strange but sadly true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized