Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Saturday granted posthumous pardons to 34 lynching victims. His office said it was the first time a governor had issued a “blanket pardon” of this kind.
Some children were among those pardoned, including Howard Cooper, a 15-year-old Black boy who was hanged by a white mob in 1885, and 13-year-old Frederick “whose full name was lost to history,” Hogan said.
The governor signed the pardons at an event memorializing Howard, who was killed after an all-white jury found him guilty of raping a white woman. The woman never testified, but the jury reportedly reached its verdict in under a minute. Before Howard’s attorneys were able to appeal the conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, the boy was dragged from a Baltimore County jailhouse by an angry mob and hanged on a nearby sycamore tree.
According to a historic marker that was unveiled Saturday at the site where Howard was lynched, the boy’s “body was displayed so angry white residents and local train passengers could see his corpse” and pieces of the rope that had been used to hang him were later “given away as souvenirs.”
“Howard’s mother, Henrietta, collected her child’s remains and buried him in an unmarked grave in Ruxton. No one was ever held accountable for her son’s lynching,” the marker reads.
Hogan said he was made aware of Howard’s story by the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and students at Loch Raven Technical Academy, who submitted a petition earlier this year to pardon the teen.
The governor said the petition prompted him to investigate the history of lynching in Maryland, and ultimately led him to the decision to pardon all documented victims of the racist, extrajudicial killings in the state between 1854 and 1933. (Will Schwarz, president of the memorial project, told Politico that there were actually 40 documented lynching cases in Maryland over that time period, but in some of those cases, the victims had not yet been arrested when they were killed and were thus not eligible for posthumous clemency.)
Hogan said in a statement that he hoped the pardons would “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.”
“The state of Maryland has long been on the forefront of civil rights, dating back to Justice Thurgood Marshall’s legal battle to integrate schools and throughout our national reckoning on race,” Hogan said. “Today, we are once again leading the way as we continue the work to build a more perfect union.”