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Nation’s First Commission on Racist Lynching Starts in Maryland

Marylandís new panel to examine the state's history of racially motivated lynchings will hold public hearings throughout the state over the next three years. (Adobe Stock)
Marylandís new panel to examine the state's history of racially motivated lynchings will hold public hearings throughout the state over the next three years. (Adobe Stock)
August 15, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland this week launched a commission to examine the state's history of racially motivated lynchings.

It's the first state in the nation to officially acknowledge this form of racial violence.

The Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission held an organizational meeting to begin the work of addressing how the state should honor and support those who lost their lives to lynchings.

State Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk, a Democrat, was the chief sponsor of House Bill 307, which the General Assembly passed unanimously this spring to create the restorative justice panel.

"There's a lot of racially motivated incidents happening and hate crimes,” she states. “You know, it's at an all-high in this country and there's a lot of racist rhetoric. We need to definitely confront our past."

Peña-Melnyk says the panel is looking for four public members to join the committee.

Members include representatives from historically black colleges in the state as well as from the National Archives.

At least 40 African-Americans are believed to have been killed by lynch mobs in Maryland between 1854 and the last recorded incident in 1933.

According to Peña-Melnyk, no one ever was tried, convicted or brought to justice for these acts of violence.

"The commission will research cases – you know, racially motivated lynchings – and will hopefully have a record that we would review and incorporate into our history in Maryland and make sure that history doesn't repeat itself," she explains.

The panel will meet next on Sept. 12 at the University of Baltimore School of Law in a public event with the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD