Justice Day in pursuit of racial equity in Chestertown

Sherrilyn Ifill is the author of “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century.”

CHESTERTOWN — Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the leading United States civil rights organization, is the featured speaker for the inaugural Justice Day here on Saturday, May 15.

The James Taylor Justice Coalition of Sumner Hall is hosting the virtual event, which is calling on participants to “listen and reflect on our shared histories of racial inequality and terror with the purpose of reconciliation, justice and equity for all,” according to a new release.

The event, which is scheduled to run from 3 to 4:45 p.m., will be live streamed on Sumner Hall’s Facebook page and on the Zoom teleconferencing platform. For more information, visit www.garpost25.org.

The James Taylor Justice Coalition memorializes the 23-year-old Black man who was lynched in Chestertown by a white mob nearly 130 years ago.

The May 17, 1892 lynching of Taylor took place about 100 yards from the current town hall at 118 N. Cross St.

Also on the Justice Day program is Savannah Shepherd, an 18-year-old college freshman and social justice activist. She is the founder-director of the Delaware Social Justice Remembrance Coalition.

Larry Wilson, president of the Sumner Hall board of directors and co-chairman of the James Taylor Justice Coalition, will provide an overview of the vision and mission of the JTJC, which aims to educate the community about the reprehensibility of Taylor’s lynching and to show how racial terror and injustice have continued against people of color.

Ruth Shoge, first vice president of Sumner Hall, will introduce the 2021 high school essay contest for Kent County.

John Queen, a co-founder and president of the Bayside HOYAS and chairman of the Black Union of Kent County, will kick off a summer book club reading of Ifill’s “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century.” Ifill’s highly acclaimed book is credited with laying the foundation for contemporary conversations about lynching and reconciliation.

There were more than 4,000 racial terror lynchings of Blacks in the United States between 1877 and 1950.

The Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports there were at least 40 known lynchings in Maryland. No one was ever tried, convicted or otherwise held accountable for participating in these lawless acts of violence, although the perpetrators were often known to law enforcement.

On the Eastern Shore, Somerset County had four lynchings, Wicomico had three, Caroline and Queen Anne’s each had two, and Kent and Worcester each had one.

The JTJC was founded in the summer of 2019 as the James Taylor Lynching Remembrance Coalition.

In 2020, the Equal Justice Initiative based in Montgomery, Alabama agreed to include the JTJC as part of its national Community Remembrance Project to memorialize documented victims of racial violence and foster meaningful dialogue about race and justice.

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