Maryland's governor on Saturday posthumously pardoned 34 victims of racial lynching in the state dating between 1854 and 1933, saying they were denied legal due process against the allegations they faced. It was a first-of-its-kind pardon by a governor of a US state. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the order at an event honoring Howard Cooper, a 15-year-old who was dragged from a jailhouse and hanged from a tree by a mob of white men in 1885 before his attorneys could file an appeal of a rape conviction that an all-white jury reached within minutes. "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 their loved ones," Hogan said at a ceremony in Towson, Maryland, next to the former jailhouse where Cooper was held. A historic marker was unveiled at the site, reports the AP.
Earlier this year, the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and students at Loch Raven Technical Academy petitioned Hogan to issue the pardon for Cooper. After receiving the request, the Republican governor directed his chief legal counsel to review all of the available documentation of racial lynchings in Maryland. The sign unveiled Saturday said Cooper's body was left hanging from a sycamore tree "so angry white residents and local train passengers could see his corpse. Later, pieces of the rope were given away as souvenirs," the sign says. "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." The Equal Justice Initiative has documented more than 6,500 racial lynchings in the country.