About a decade ago, Tina Johnson of Princess Anne, Md., was taking a college course on the history of her state when she came across a familiar name.
A passage in her textbook said that a young man named George Armwood was the last Black person to be lynched in Maryland. In class, Ms. Johnson raised her hand. “That’s my cousin,” she recalled saying to the professor.
Ms. Johnson, now 35, had heard about Mr. Armwood once before: She was a child when her grandmother Mary Braxton told her about the day he was accused of attacking a white woman in 1933.
Ms. Braxton, who was Mr. Armwood’s first cousin, told Ms. Johnson that he had asserted his innocence and tried desperately to hide from the police. He was ultimately taken to a jail in Princess Anne, where a lynch mob found him.
state history archive.
Now, 88 years later, Mr. Armwood has been formally pardoned — along with 33 other Black men and boys who were lynched in Maryland between 1854 and 1933.
“My hope is that this action will at least in some way help to right these horrific wrongs,” Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement, “and perhaps bring a measure of peace to the memories of these individuals, and to their descendants and loved ones.”
Mr. Hogan announced the pardons at a news conference Saturday in Towson, Md., where a plaque was erected in memory of another lynching victim, Howard Cooper, who was 15 when he was accused of sexually assaulting a white girl in 1885.
After Howard was convicted by an all-white jury, his lawyers intended to appeal his case to the United States Supreme Court, according to the state archive. Instead, a lynch mob broke into the jail, dragged him from his cell and hanged him from a tree.
Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, a nonprofit group that has been working to bring the stories of lynching victims to light. Will Schwarz, the president of the organization, wrote a letter to Mr. Hogan in February urging him to posthumously pardon Howard Cooper.
“It’s a step toward changing the narrative and correcting the history that has been misrepresented for so long,” Mr. Schwarz said in an interview. “I hope it helps people understand how that original sin continues to degrade all our lives.”
Ms. Schwarz said his work was inspired by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal advocacy group that has documented more than 4,000 racial terror lynchings in the United States between 1877 and 1950.