Some Maryland history relevant to our inquiry into lynchings:
Author: Marlena Jareaux (edited by Lynn Mumma)
President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation dated Jan 1, 1863 did not end slavery in Maryland because it did not apply to the State of Maryland. It only applied to the states that were in open rebellion with the US. Maryland, which had been occupied by federal troops, had been prevented from seceding from the Union as many of her southern sister states had done to join the Confederacy. As the war was winding down, it was known that states would all be made to set up state governments in ways that would prevent such rebellion from happening again. Maryland had to do something about the slavery it still tolerated.
Ratification of Maryland’s new Constitution was taken to the people for a vote on October 1864. It outlawed slavery, took the right to vote away from southern sympathizers who had fought for or supported the confederacy, and changed representation in the General Assembly. The initial vote by the people was to reject it. It wasn’t until soldiers in the Union army had their votes counted that the vote was tipped and it passed. Many people of power believed the vote was tampered with, and that it didn’t actually reflect the beliefs of most Marylanders. Despite a court challenge that was quickly disposed of, the soldier vote was allowed to stand. That Constitution would only be in place until 1867.
Key events at the end of the Civil War
General Lee surrendered some troops to General Grant on April 9, 1865, but the war wasn’t yet over. Less than a week later, Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865 by Marylander, John Wilkes Booth.
The 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery, was approved by Maryland on February 3, 1865 and ratified by the required number of states on December 6, 1865. The Civil Rights Act was also passed by Congress in 1865 and subsequently vetoed by President Johnson.
On April 2, 1866, President Johnson declared the rebellion to be over for all former confederate states, except Texas. Several days later, on April 9th, the U.S. Senate overrode his veto of the Civil Rights Act. The 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting full citizenship to African Americans, was proposed on June 13, 1866, because there were questions about whether the Civil Rights Act could be done. The right to vote was a right of citizenship, but since it wasn’t specifically written that voting was mandated, many states found ways to still deny African Americans the right to vote.
Maryland specifically and formally rejected the 14th amendment on March 23, 1867. Other states like Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Kentucky had already rejected it. The states that had left the Union (seceded) were required to adopt the 14th Amendment before they would be readmitted to it. The ten states still out of the Union in 1867 were placed under military rule by the US Government. Georgia was one such state. Despite Maryland’s rejection of the 14th Amendment, it hadn’t seceded from the Union which meant it wouldn’t face any penalty for not adopting it. Ratification by the required number of states finally occurred July 9, 1868. Maryland did not actually get around to ratifying the 14th Amendment until nearly a century later on April 4, 1959.
With a change in power in the state and the withdrawal of federal troops from Maryland came a push for a new Maryland Constitution. This was during the time period frequently referred to as Reconstruction. States that had seceded from the Union were working to get readmitted and rights (power) restored, while adapting to a new normal of life without the use of forced labor by the enslaved was becoming everyone’s new reality. Maryland had been one of the States that had made widespread use of old Maryland apprenticeship laws to essentially re-enslave the children of blacks freed after the war. The Freedmen’s Bureau had been created in order to assist with the transition of those getting used to the “new normal”, and was called upon in order to assist with those who had to be forced to do so. It took the written opinion of a Supreme Court Justice in a legal case to make it clear in October of 1867 that Maryland’s practices were unlawful. (In re Turner, 24 F. Cas. 337, 339 (C.C. Md. 1867)) The new Maryland Constitution of 1867 was put into place, with a request and push that slaveholders be compensated for the loss of their slaves by the federal government. The 1864 Constitution had specifically mandated that they would not be compensated. There is the list that contains the names of Howard Countians who desired to be compensated for their perceived economic loss due to the forced end of slavery. The list was authorized to be created in 1867. For historical reference, this was right before the massive Ellicott City flood of July 24, 1868 that killed 39 people. The list compiled by the Commissioner of Slave Statistics for Howard County contains family names such as: Carroll, Clark, Crapster, Dorsey, Gaither, Gorman, Haslup, Hobbs, Ligon, Linthicum, Mercer, Ridgley, Shipley, Stewart, Warfield, Worthington, and many others. Buildings and streets in Howard County have made these names recognizable to us all, though this history has rarely been connected to them by those who tell the historical stories. (List is provided on our site, courtesy of the Maryland State Archives)
The 15th Amendment, to ensure that African American men would have the right to vote, was proposed on February 26, 1869. Not surprisingly, it was specifically rejected by Maryland on February 26, 1870. The required number of states needed to ratify it was achieved March 30, 1870 in spite of Maryland, which didn’t actually get around to ratifying it until nearly a century later on May 7, 1973.
The Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1865 by Confederate veterans, had begun to rise in power and numbers by the end of the 1860s. In April of 1871, the US Congress gave power to President Grant to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in order to fight the Klan and other such groups. The Act was designed to help with the enforcement of the 14th Amendment, and is known as the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 which had been the THIRD Act to be created by Congress in order to try to assist African American in exercising rights conferred upon them by law. The Enforcement Act done the year before in 1870 was aimed at prohibiting people from banding together and going in disguise with the intention of violating another citizen’s constitutional rights. Education for African Americans was also difficult to achieve in many places. In a report made by the National Teacher’s Association, as reported in The New National Era published December 8, 1870, Maryland was “..only educating colored children in Baltimore.”
In the years of 1868 and 1869, many African American men were receiving education at Lincoln University. The men were then lending their time and talents to Reconstruction educational efforts for children throughout many of the states. Many of the records pertaining to the work of the Freedmen’s Bureau (established in 1865) and Maryland (a ”border state“) are located at the National Archives, on microfilm. An overview of the Bureau and the records can be found by using the link below. The Bureau was abolished in 1872, though many people kept continuing to do the work needed to ensure equality and access for all.
Howard County during Reconstruction
For Howard County, an early example of the efforts to educate African Americans is found in a deed of trust dated May 2, 1867 between Thomas and Sarah Hood and the Trustees of the Mount Gregory United Methodist Church (in Cooksville). The names of those men of color (Trustees) were: George Snowden (Black, about 44), John T Smith, James Randall (Mulatto, about 52), James Parker (Mulatto, about 40), Henry Matthews (Mulatto, about 42), Daniel White (Mulatto, about 32), John Dorsey (Black, about 37) and George Randall (Mulatto, about 22). (*the particulars of Davis Dorsey aren’t known due to him not appearing on any census for that time period). All men appear to be from District 4 in Howard County. The deed was restricted in that Mount Gregory would be able to have it for the ”..exclusive use, benefit, occupancy and advantage of the colored people or persons of African descent to have, hold, use and occupy the buildings that are now, or may thereafter be erected thereon as a school or seminary..”. Unfortunately, the Maryland Historical Trust documentation has it very wrong. In the writeup done by the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning in 2006 about Mount Gregory, it is incorrectly stated that “as early as 1846, a black school, known as the “Warfield Academy” was constructed..”. , did not pay its bills, were sued, and were sold at Sheriff sale. Warfield Academy was a white school, and there is no indication that it was open to attendance by African Americans. It is correct that the Warfield Academy (formed by Gustavus Warfield, Charles D. Warfield, Asbury Peddicord, R.D. Hewitt, James Sykes and Thomas H. Hood ) had been sued in court for not paying their bills, and had lost their Academy in a court-ordered sale of the property by the Howard County Sheriff in 1851. Quite possibly, Mr. Hood agreed to sell the property to Mount Gregory after the Civil War so that they could own the place where they had already been or intended to educate African Americans as many were doing in Reconstruction efforts. Hopefully, more information will be uncovered and researched to contribute to the knowledge regarding Howard County during this time period.
It was interesting to find that Howard County apparently had its own “Howard University” in District 4. It appears to possibly have been physically located near where Mr. John Dorsey and George Randall were living, according to the 1870 census of the area. No person of color was listed as being a student there, as seen from the following image:
Howard County: Post-Reconstruction
In Howard County, Arthur P. Gorman was a candidate for Senate in the 1879 election. He was a son of Peter and Elizabeth Gorman, and had been a Maryland Delegate since 1869. His father, Peter, is usually associated with his contract to build an early section of the B&O Railroad. Unfortunately, most of the early records from the B&O Railroad from those days have yet to turn up which has prevented any meaningful conclusions from being made concerning the identities of the men and women who did the work and assisted Mr. Gorman. In 1860, while Arthur was living with his mother and father before the Civil War had started, he certainly had been exposed to the enslaved workers in his family’s household. Most of the enslaved had actually been owned by his mother, Elizabeth, who had inherited slaves from her father’s estate (John R. Brown). In the Aug 1850 census of the enslaved, she declared for taxation purposes to own 14 souls. And by the time slavery ended, she declared for the Commissioner of Slave Statistics for the purposes of compensation to own five… four in their 20s believed by her to be slaves “for life”.
Activities at the Howard County voting polls made national news in 1879 when Gorman was running for senator. The New York Times reported on November 5th that “Colored Voters Shot Down and Driven Away From The Polls- The Democrats Carry The State By Gross Fraud and Intimidation”. African American voters in Elkridge, Sykesville, and Ellicott City had been shot at by a “gang”. Gorman, a Democrat, won the election. According to the report, the Deputy Sheriff refused to round up a posse to do anything with the warrant that had been issued for the obviously-known ringleaders.
*Note: In 2000, The Rouse Company’s plan to name a development in King’s Contrivance after Gorman got derailed when Black leaders and Columbia officials denounced it due to Gorman’s known efforts to pass legislation that would have disenfranchised African American voters in Maryland. The Maryland Archives has a nice narrative about Gorman’s work regarding the Poe Amendment, which had lots of opposition. The writeup in the Sun is found below, as well as the link to the Archives writeup.
Climate in Howard County: mid-1880s
In 1884, in nearby Anne Arundel county, an African African man named George Briscoe was accused of committing a series of recent robberies in the community and was greeted at his home by a “vigilance committee” at 2 o’clock in the morning. After a shot was fired into his home, he said he would shoot someone if they didn’t leave him alone. When a magistrate put him in jail to await the legal process, Briscoe asked what right the magistrate had to jail him. This apparently angered many people. On November 26, 1884, Briscoe was lynched by a group of masked men. Newspapers reported that Briscoe’s manner was “offensive.”
The following month next door here in Howard County, a Black man was reported in the papers to have been lynched for having allegedly married a white woman named Fannie Schultz.
That man’s name is Rev. Hezekiah Brown. The work of our group begins with him. Please click the tab for lynchings to see more. (Spoiler: he hadn’t actually been lynched at all!)
A great graphical representation of the climate for African Americans after the Civil War, done by EJI: