NAACP Official: Gov. Hogan's Pardons of Lynching Victims 'Political Posturing' Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, far right, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski and Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones stand next to a new historic marker on Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Towson, Md., that memorializes Howard Cooper, a 15-year-old who was dragged from a jailhouse and hanged from a tree by a mob of white men in 1885. (Brian Witte/AP)
By Brian Freeman | Monday, 10 May 2021 09:31 AM
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s posthumous pardon of lynching victims over the weekend was criticized as "political posturing" by the state’s NAACP President Willie Flowers, CNN reported.
"Celebrating himself by reminding people that lynchings happened is not the best thing you can do; it’s actually the least that he could do," Flowers said.
"This is just political posturing that nobody needs right now," Flowers added. "If the governor’s going to do something, he should, with his power as governor, look at the many broken systems based on the same type of vitriol, contempt, hatred, that caused the murders of these gentlemen. Every system that has been broken, as the governor of Maryland, he alone can change all of it."
Flowers made the remarks after Hogan, a Republican, issued a blanket pardon of dozens of the state’s Black lynching victims, even though many were reportedly never convicted of any crimes, but only charged or accused of wrongdoing before they were killed.
The governor made the announcement of the pardon of 34 Blacks lynched in Maryland between 1854 and 1933 at an event held to memorialize Howard Cooper, a 15-year-old boy who in 1885 was dragged from the Baltimore County Jail and hanged after the jury reached a guilty verdict in under a minute and before his attorneys had the chance to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to NPR.
The Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and students at the state's Loch Raven Technical Academy had petitioned Hogan earlier this year to pardon Cooper, which led the governor to review all of the available accounts of racist lynching in the state.
Flowers also questioned the motives behind Hogan’s announcement, as the governor is reportedly contemplating a run for president in 2024.
Almost 6,500 documented racial terror lynchings took place in the United States between 1865 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.
Hogan said at the event for Cooper that "my hope is that this action will at least in some way help to right these horrific wrongs and perhaps to bring a measure of peace to the memories of these individuals, and to their descendants and their loved ones," according to CNN.
Flowers agreed that years ago families wanted to know that their relatives were innocent when they were hunted down and murdered, because it "released the shame of them being crooks, and they were probably crooks for other things," but added this was not the same situation with these posthumous pardons.
"These individuals, like most victims of lynching, were never crooks. They were just targets and victims of lynch mobs and that’s what he [Hogan] can’t articulate," Flowers said.
Some of Maryland's Democrat lawmakers have been critical of Hogan’s record on current civil rights issues, such as policing, according to NPR.
Last month the Democrat state legislature overrode Hogan's veto on several police reform measures, including one that gives civilians a role in the state's police disciplinary process.