Remembering Mr. Harris [Editorial]

There was one documented lynching in Harford County, though there are fears about others, when a mob hung Lewis Harris in Bel Air on March 26-27, 1900.

His murder has been well-reported in these pages when it happened and in more recent years. Most recently, the news of an angry mob forcibly taking Mr. Harris out of the county jail, which was on Main Street, over to Churchville Road where he was hanged, was reported again about a year ago. That was when a young Harford County resident worked to restore an old cemetery on Tollgate Road, where Mr. Harris is buried.

The crime came up again in recent weeks as the National Peace and Justice Memorial opened in Montgomery, Ala., bringing attention to the thousands of African Americans lynched and each of the 800 counties where African Americans were murdered.

No one was ever charged with killing Mr. Harris.

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who holds the post leading the agency that employed Mr. Harris at the time he was lynched, tried to put the horror into perspective.

“There are dark moments in our country’s history, moments that were rooted in violence and hate,” Gahler said. “It is important as leaders, we stand against racial violence directed against people because of the color of their skin, ethnicity, beliefs or profession. This memorial [in Alabama] may be difficult for some to bear witness, but we must. We must acknowledge our past, and denounce violence at every turn.”

We strongly support that view, and with greater strength denounce those who don’t share it.

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