Editor’s note: The Spy warns its readers that this account of a lynching in Chestertown is both graphic and disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
A reckoning with the moral debt owed Black America requires a blunt confrontation with the legacy of our past and inventory of injustices committed against Blacks even before Jamestown and after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 to this day.
One of the worst manifestations of white supremacy occurred during the hundred-year Jim Crow era—post-Civil War up to 1968. Throughout the country, local and State Black Codes were created to marginalize the Black population by suppressing voting, withhold education, and employment.
Structural racism soon became wired into policy. FHA segregated housing, high denial rates for home mortgages, 30+% wage gaps, household wealth gaps, racial profiling, 5 to 10 times incarceration rates, and according to the University of California, a 3.5 times chance of being unarmed and shot by law enforcement reveal the grid of systemic racism.
Foundational to the Jim Crow era of oppression, a reign of racist terror and murder claimed the lives of between 4,000 and 6,000 Black men, women, and children throughout the States.
By lynching alone.
Predominantly a terror act of southern states, Maryland was not immune. 29 lynchings throughout the state have been recorded with 12 on the Eastern Shore.
One of those was in Chestertown in front of the Court House on Cross Street. His name was James Taylor.
The Spy reached out to talk with G. Kevin Hemstock, former Editor of The Kent County News and a lifelong history sleuth, archivist, and author. His books include “Injustice on the Eastern Shore,” “The Thirteen Most Sensational Murders of Kent County, MD,” “Freaks, Fables and Fires of Kent County, MD,” and “The History of Millington: Vol 1 and 2”.
Hemstock has written extensively about the Taylor lynching and shares the context of the Chestertown tragedy and the contagion of racial rage that burned throughout the country and Kent County in 1892.
For readers who would like to be more directly involved in the current mission to confront the legacy of racial injustice, the Spy invites you to contact the James Taylor Lynching Remembrance Coalition co-chaired by Philip Dutton and Larry Wilson at the GAR Sumner Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sumner Hall sub-committee is working with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to create a historical commemoration for James Taylor. More details are forthcoming.