Maryland governor posthumously pardons 34 lynching victims

"My hope is that this action will at least in some way help to right these horrific wrongs," said Hogan

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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) issued posthumous pardons for 34 victims of racial lynchings, reported The Hill.

Hogan signed the order during a news conference on Saturday afternoon, making him the first governor in history to issue a comprehensive pardon for lynching victims.

“A child was lynched right here, why would we ever want to forget that? Well we’re here today to make sure that no one does forget it. We want people to know what happened here,” said Hogan in his address delivered at the site where a historic marker will be erected in the memory of one of the victims.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) speaks during a news conference. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“This story, Howard Cooper‘s story, and thousands, thousands like it, this history of terror and torture and death and unspeakable cruelty, this history that we inflicted on our own people for centuries […] it’s been denied or dismissed or swept to the side of the road, and I want people who see this building to think of Henrietta Cooper coming to collect her sons remains that day.”

“We need to remember that, and by ‘we,’ I hope no one is offended, but I mean white people,” said Hogan.

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The pardon reportedly came as result of a petition by the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and students at Loch Raven Technical Academy, who beseeched Hogan to issue a pardon for Howard Cooper, who was lynched near the Baltimore County Jail in 1885.

The petition reportedly revealed that Cooper, only 15 when he was unjustly executed, was accused of assaulting and raping a white woman, an argument notoriously used to condone the lynching of Black men during the Jim Crow era.

A jury found Cooper guilty, which was an automatic death sentence at the time, and he was reportedly transferred to jail while his case was on appeal, from which he was later removed by a white mob and hung to his death.

“Howard’s body was displayed so angry white residents and local train passengers could see his corpse. Later, pieces of the rope were given away as souvenirs,” the petition stated. “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.”

“Pardoning Mr. Cooper for his alleged crimes, while acknowledging the state’s failure to protect his rights, will be an important milestone in our collective journey for truth and reconciliation and will affirm Maryland’s leadership in a matter of critical importance to every American,” said president of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, Will Schwarz.

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The request to pardon Cooper reportedly prompted Hogan to advise his chief legal counsel to review all available documentation and newspaper accounts of lynching in Maryland, which resulted in the issuing of 34 pardons for victims between 1854 and 1933.

“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,” said Hogan.

The Maryland Lynching Memorial Project reported that at least 40 African Americans were lynched in Maryland between 1865 and 1950, a figure contributing to the total 4,000 African Americans lynched in the U.S. during that time.

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