By Matthew Ritchie, Special to the AFRO

June 18 represented a step in the right direction in terms of race relations in Annapolis, as the Annapolis City Council passed a resolution apologizing for lynchings of Black men throughout the history of the city and the surrounding Anne Arundel county.

This resolution was spearheaded by Alderwomen Elly Tierney and Rhonda Pindell Charles, of D-Ward 1 and D-Ward 3, respectively. It acts as an apology from the capital city of Maryland itself, as 5 other members of the city council, and Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley signed onto the resolution as co-sponsors.

How the AFRO covered the lynching of King Johnson in 1911. (AFRO file photo)

This movement towards making gestures to repair racial relations in Annapolis comes on the heels of an article in Annapolis’ local paper, The Sunday Capital, where they called upon the City of Annapolis to condemn the horrific history of lynchings that had occurred in the city and Anne Arundel county.

The history of documented lynchings in Anne Arundel county dates back to 1875. This was the first time that a formal apology for the murders was successfully issued by the city; however, it was not the first attempt at an apology. In 1898, a proposal for a formal apology led by then Alderman Wiley H. Bates failed, receiving only one vote in its favor.

Tierney points to this resolution as a step in the right direction towards addressing racial injustices in the county.

“The purpose of this Resolution is for the City Council to express its support for the Equal Justice Initiative,” she wrote in a testimony supporting the resolution. She said she hopes this formal apology can help the city “move toward a more complete history of race relations.”

The co-sponsors of the resolution declined to comment by press time.

It is not difficult to see that the Equal Justice Initiative, which was founded in 1994 and has documented over 4,000 lynchings that had occurred between the Civil War and World War II, has had a profound effect on this push to try and right past wrongs against African Americans. The initiative has called upon every county in the U.S. in which lynchings occurred to install markers to acknowledge the murders.

The state of Maryland has had a terrible past in terms of lynchings, with 33 of them being documented. Annapolis and Anne Arundel county had 5 documented lynchings, with the last one occurring in 1911, when King Johnson was removed from his cell in the county jail and was lynched for killing a White man in self defense. In 1906, Henry Davis was lynched after admitting to assaulting a White woman. He was subsequently hung and shot over 100 times as he was dragged through Annapolis.

Tierney was motivated by the gruesomeness of the murders of these Black men, and felt as though there should be some sort of reconciliation. For her, Alderwoman Pindell Charles, and the other co-sponsors, the inability to recognize these lynchings whilst Annapolis celebrates events like crew races and croquet matches was unacceptable.

This formal apology is a part of a greater movement to remove symbols of White supremacy in the state of Maryland. Last year, the statue of U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney, who penned the Dred Scott decision saying that Black people in slavery were property, not people, was removed from the state legislature in Annapolis. Baltimore City recently several Confederate monuments under the administration of Mayor Catherine Pugh while Baltimore County changed the name of Robert E. Lee Park to Lake Roland Park.