On Dec. 21, 1906, an angry mob of Annapolitans seized a black man accused of assaulting a white woman from the county jail, dragged him through the streets and hanged him from a tree near St. John’s College.

When the limb snapped, the more than 50 white men mutilated his body with more than 100 bullets. One man took photos and distributed postcards.

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“Some truth must be unvarnished. Some truth must be unfiltered...” said Carl Snowden, convener of the county Caucus of African American Leaders. "Henry Davis was killed to set an example. The example was designed to intimidate and create fear. It was to say to every black man, woman and child in Anne Arundel County: Know your place; don’t get out of line.”

A host of social justice activists were flanked by local politicians Saturday at Whitmore Park in Annapolis to unveil a marker commemorating the at least five African Americans killed in lynchings across Anne Arundel County.

The memorial along Calvert Street remembers Davis, John Sims, George Briscoe, Wright Smith and King Johnson, many of whom were hanged after being abducted at or en route to the old jail — where the Arundel Center now stands.

As they announced the memorial, which was made possible by the Connecting the Dots’ Remembrance and Reconciliation Project of Anne Arundel County and the Equal Justice Initiative, Snowden and other leaders sent their own message: Ugly truths from the past are to be ignored no longer, they say, and should be used to highlight the injustices of today.

“The truth is that people who look like me, and may have been related to me, deliberately and knowingly used torture and murder to terrorize the African American community of this county," said County Executive Steuart Pittman. “We know it happened five times in the form of lynching, but we also know that those five lynchings were not isolated incidents.”

Snowden said angry white people decades ago could not wait for justice, as they snatched up black men awaiting trial and killed them before they saw their day in court.

Perhaps the days of lynch mobs have passed, but injustices remain for the descendants of those who met awful fates at the hands of murderous vigilantes, he said.

Madison Medley, a 17-year-old senior at Meade High School, detailed those injustices in the essay that earned her first place in the EJI Racial Justice Scholarship contest. She and four of her peers were recognized under the Speaker Michael E. Busch Amphitheater Saturday, shaking the hand of Mayor Gavin Buckley as they were gifted scholarships for college tuition. EJI leaders asked Medley to read her essay. Her words gripped an at times emotional audience.

“Innocent until proven guilty," she read. “It is one of the foundations of justice within our democratic society. Arguably, the most important one. It applies to everyone. Well, it should apply to everyone, but unfortunately it does not.”

Medley, who wants to study information services in college and then go to law school, discussed what she said was an unwarranted negative perception of her school — with a majority black population, Meade High students are three times as likely to be charged with crimes than the average of county public schools.

She described the unfairness of SAT and ACT prep — so crucial for college admissions, yet so inaccessible to those who can’t afford the high costs. And, she detailed the story of the Central Park 5 — a group of five minority teens who were wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in New York City (the subject of Netflix documentary).

“Black people within our society do not have the privilege of being innocent until proven guilty,” she said. “They are often seen as guilty until proven innocent.”

Alma Cropper, 85, of Parole, has lived in Anne Arundel County her whole life and remembers growing up and experiencing injustices blacks faced, she said after the ceremony. “I remember the jail. I remember the treatment."

But the location Saturday wasn’t just about the horrors lynching, it brought back memories of urban redevelopment and the African American cultural hub that was the Old 4th Ward of Annapolis, Cropper said, gesturing toward the government buildings and other structures developed in its place. “There was things that we had that was taken from us.”

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Pittman mentioned those injustices later in his speech, which earned a standing ovation from the audience.

Things got better for blacks after emancipation, though those that committed racial terrorism were never prosecuted, “but they did not get better enough,” he said. “In the 1980s the government condemned the homes of African Americans; homes that stood exactly where we’re standing. The government condemned whole African American communities, forced them into public housing and then slashed the funding to maintain the public housing.”

An expansive federal lawsuit filed against Annapolis and the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis targets the aftermath of those urban redevelopment policies. The lawsuit alleges that the city looked the other way for decades as its public housing declined to dangerous conditions, disparaging the almost entirely black population that lives there now. The health of at least 29 residents has suffered, the lawsuit alleges, because of the systemic discrimination that led to the deplorable conditions there today.

Attorneys for the city and the housing authority responded in legal documents by arguing that the practices of not licensing or inspecting the public housing properties is legal and can’t be considered discriminatory because not every resident is black, and the unhealthy conditions hurt equally the non-black tenants.

Snowden decried the government-funded attorneys’ responses after the ceremony. “Frankly, it should be mitigated, not litigated,” he said.

As she took the podium, State Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk, D-College Park, spoke of the significance of this memorial. During the past meeting of the state legislature, she passed a bill that established on June 1 the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which tasks the committee staff provided by Bowie State University and the Office of the Attorney General to create a report recommending how the state should address the legacy of lynching and to erect markers in counties where lynchings occurred.

The marker in Annapolis — the first of its kind in the state — recognizes five people who were lynched, when at least 41 were hanged by white mobs across Maryland between 1854 and 1933, she said. “This is the first historical marker, the first, and I congratulate you because that’s amazing."

“But the fact is we also have (23) other jurisdictions," Peña-Melynk said, "and the lynchings occurred in at least 18.”

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