Sumner Hall’s James Taylor Justice Coalition welcomed the Kent community to Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s parish hall on Saturday in remembrance of James Taylor, an African American lynched across the street from the Kent County Courthouse 128 years ago.
Justice Day was produced by the James Taylor Justice Coalition of Sumner Hall in collaboration with the Community Remembrance Project, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), Montgomery, Alabama.
“James Taylor was an African American farm worker who was incarcerated on May 12, 1892, for allegedly assaulting the daughter of his employer. Two days later, on May 14, 1892, he was denied justice when he was forcibly removed from a jail cell in the Chestertown Courthouse and lynched on a nearby tree by a mob of approximately 500 citizens. His innocence or guilt could never be determined. No members of the mob who murdered him were ever identified or charged.”
The program recognized 16 Kent County High School students who participated in a essay contest sponsored by EJI and awarded $6,000 in prize money to the top six. Ruth Shoge presented the awards. Top prize went to Morgan Kendall who wrote eloquently about how racism is systemic inequality excludes so many from the “American Dream.”
The program’s Keynote Address, Bending Toward Justice, was delivered by E. Gregory Wells, Chief Judge, Court of Special Appeals and Chair, Equal Justice Committee.
“I applaud you for seeking to reconcile the past with the present, but sadly the present has been marred by the deaths of so many unarmed black people. This community, like so many across the nation, want change. This commemoration is an example of that,” Wells said.
Others included in the ceremony were Larry Wilson, Phil Dutton, Ruth Shoge, and Barbara Foster of Sumner Hall. Chestertown Mayor David Foster, poet, Robert Earl Price; Karen Somerville and the Sombarkin’ Trio; Judge Gale Rasin; Aniyah Tue and Ariel Purnell of GLOW (Girls Learning Our Worth); and Rashane Lee’s Dance Company; Will Schwarz, President of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project; and David Fakunle, Chair of the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
To document the history of this injustice, soil from the site of the lynching was collected for a permanent exhibition at Sumner Hall and will also be taken by a group of volunteers to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama for its national exhibition.
The Spy was on hand to record the event. A complete recording of the ceremony made by Sumner Hall will be made at a later date.
This video is approximately eight minutes in length. To find out more about Sumner Hall in Chestertown, go here.