Lynching of Howard Cooper

On July 13, 1885, a white mob lynched Howard Cooper, a 15-year old Black child, here at the former Baltimore County Jail. Months earlier, Howard was accused of the assault and rape of a white woman near Rockland, and fled. During this era, accusations of Black-on-white rape or assault required no credible support, and Black people were often lynched for things they did not do. Howard was caught on the Edward Rider farm and transferred to Baltimore City, as angry white mobs threatened his life. In May, an all-white jury found Howard guilty of assault and rape, even though the victim did not testify she was raped. The jury never left the courtroom, reaching its verdict in less than a minute. The rape conviction triggered the death penalty. Howard was transferred back to Towson as his attorneys appealed his conviction to the state’s highest court. That appeal was denied. Rev. Harvey Johnson of Union Baptist Church led a campaign to fund an appeal to the US Supreme Court, but in July a white mob unlawfully stormed the jail, dragged the 15-year okd from his cell and hanged him from a nearby sycamore tree. Howard’s body was displayed so angry white residents and local train passengers could see his corpse. Later, pieces of the rope were given away as souvenirs. 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.

Equal Justice Initiative 2021

Lynching in America

Lynching of Howard Cooper

At least 6,500 Black people were the victims of racial terror lynching in the United States between 1865 and 1950. After the Civil War; violent resistance to equal rights for African Americans and an ideology of white supremacy led to fatal violence against Black women, men, and children who were frequently falsely accused of violating social norms or crimes. Though Maryland had not joined the Confederacy, in 1860 more than 87,000 Black people were enslaved in the state where slavery remained legal. The Emancipation Proclamation did not authorize freedom for enslaved Black people in states outside the Confederacy, like Maryland. Resistance to emancipation by white enslavers in these states was often strong as they believed they should be rewarded for not joining the South’s rebellion. Racial violence and lynching emerged post-emancipation as a form of terrorism intended to intimidate Black people and reinforce racial hierarchy and segregation. Burdened by presumptions guilt and menace, thousands of Black people were lynched for resisting exploitation, violating social customs, or being falsely accused. Millions of Black people were forced to flee their homes and lands for more secure communities in the North or West. Thee names of many victims of racial terror lynchings will never be known, but at least 40 lynchings have been documented in Maryland.

Equal Justice Initiative 2021

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