Racism in the 1920’s

Today the country celebrates Martin Luther King’s birthday, but I want to take readers back to the 1920’s on the Eastern Shore of Maryland by re-running a part of my biography of my father:

The Lynching My Father Saw on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

While my mother’s family owned land, my father’s did not.

Roy Skinner was a carpenter and handyman of many skills, if his tools (including a cove molding device) in the basement are any indication, but often a farmer.

One of the family’s tenant farms (in high school) was next to my mother’s.

The closest high school to the family farm was in Sudlersville, where both my mother and father attended high school.

When my father was undergoing lung cancer treatment in Washington, we drove over to the Eastern Shore.

Somewhere on White Marsh Road my father saw a lynching in the late 1020’s.

As we went past one road at a bend in the highway between Centerville and Church Hill with a run down building that appeared to have been a store on the west side of the intersection, Dad told me he used to live down it.  Is is south of Clannihan Shop (I think) Road.  Dad said he knew Mr. Clannihan for whom it was named after.

I see from the map that it is called White Marsh Road.

He told of walking down the dirt road with his father.  I gathered he was over ten but not in high school yet.  That would have put it in the late 1920’s, since he was born in 1916.

“What’s that?” he asked, as he saw a crowd of men up ahead.

“Don’t look at them.  Just keep on walking,” his father said.

It was a lynching.

The road on which my father lived had both whites and blacks.

When I contacted Maryland state officials they said no lynchings had taken place in Maryland since 1900.  I suggested that a lynching in Queen Anne’s County in the late 1920’s would not have made the  Queen Anne’s County Record.

It’s not exactly something the powers-that-be would want recorded.

But my father had died, so I couldn’t produce the eye witness and the lynching trackers in Maryland apparently didn’t believe me.

More tomorrow.


The Lynching My Father Saw on the Eastern Shore of Maryland- Part 3 — 5 Comments

  1. “When I contacted Maryland state officials they said no lynchings had taken place in Maryland since 1900.”

    I think that this person was telling you that non-fact out of perception rather than knowledge. Lynchings were commonplace well past the turn of the century. There is a blog which tracks the NYT from 100 years ago at http://whateveritisimagainstit.blogspot.com/ . In it the author summarizes the headline of the day from 100 years ago. I have read about many lynchings. Also at the blog the author watches every presidential speech and makes hilarious comments, both Dem and before when it was Rep.

  2. I just read your piece on the lynching your father witnessed on the Maryland Eastern Shore. Please contact me if you learn more about that incident, as I’m compiling a listing of lynchings and other racial violence on the Eastern Shore.

    I laughed at the comment by state officials about no lynchings since 1900. There was Matthew Williams in Salisbury (1931) and George Armwood in Princess Anne (1933), to name only two, both covered locally and nationally in the press.

    So far I see that there was a Queen Anne’s County lynching in 1891 of Asbury Green.

    If you can pinpoint a date of this Queen Anne’s County lynching of the late 1920’s, that might be helpful.

    The Afro-American newspaper at that time was very good at identifying local lynching and other violence, so there’s a chance I could find something.

    But of course, many acts of violence went unrecorded.

    That leaves an historical legacy of people believing “things weren’t so bad.”

    Well they were.

    Those black families living on that road must have been traumatized and forever changed. …. Thanks for sharing that story.

  3. Both of my parents are from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

    In fact, most of my family still lives there.

    My mother, Virginia Benson (nee Pinder) was born and raised in Easton, and I can still remember her mother, my grandmother Mae Bessie Stinnett Pinder’s, house on Dover Street, right across from what is now Dover Brook apartments.

    Anyway, when my parents were married in 1968, they had to leave Maryland because my mother is white and my father is Black, and his mother (Helen Warrick Benson) was afraid that my father would be lynched and murdered like a cousin of his, William Gibson, who was lynched in front of the courthouse on Washington Street because folks thought he was carrying on with a white nurse.

    Evidently, they found his hat in her car and then went to confront William Gibson about it.

    I have tried without much luck to find anything I can on this cousin.

    I don’t know the year it happened and, as you can guess, it’s a very sensitive subject in my family.

    My paternal grandmother still refuses to talk about the lynching to this day.

    But if you come across anything, that would be fantastic.

    William Gibson’s mother’s name was Ann Gibson.

    I do not know the white nurse’s name.

    Let me know if you dig up anything.

  4. I did not notice your posted comment until now, Mr. Benson, I am sorry.

    What year or about would William Gibson have been lynched, as I have not seen a record of it.

    I have found the Easton papers not very helpful, but others are.

    So if I had a time period, perhaps I could help.

    The time period of my research is about 1870 to 1950, but if there was something later, I would like to know about it.

    The Maryland Archives has a webpage specifically about lynchings, but it is incomplete and has errors.

    I do know of a Carroll Gibson who was nearly lynched in 1924 at Easton but escaped that only to be executed legally in early 1925.

    He was apparently from Trappe.

    And the description does not seem to match yours and was likely a much later time period.

    Your parents’ story sounds most interesting.

    And I know Pinder is a common family name on the Eastern Shore.

    Feel free to email me at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com and I do not mind if it is posted.

    As to Cal Skinner’s story, I have never found anything since about your story, but I am not surprised.

    You have to figure that if an accused person was never brought to town and put in jail, the occurrence would never have gotten in the newspapers.

    I am sure this has happened more times than we can imagine.

    Still, if it is alright with you, I would like to quote your blog in my book.

    It will be one of two cases of undocumented lynchings/murders identified on the Delmarva peninsula.

    Unfortunately so often researchers must rely on newspapers, and so much was not reported.

    And I want to use your case as an example of this. ….


  5. I would like to add how very sad (but understandable) that family members will not talk about lynching’s or other racial violence that have occurred.

    Maybe you could try again to ask.

    It is important.


    Because people’s mindsets today and for the future is based on what they know or understand about the past.

    But much history is wrong or missing.

    And when this information is buried, it gives the false impression that “things weren’t so bad.”

    Well it was bad.


Racism in the 1920’s — 8 Comments

  1. I have a local one.

    A number of years ago I was talking with a workers compensation attorney who came out regularly from Chicago to Woodstock for the workers compensation Call.

    He related that when he was growing up in the 1930’s, his parents rented a cabin on Wonder Lake.

    The first year they did that they sent for their black houseman to come out, and picked him up on the train at the Crystal Lake station.

    As they were driving up Walkup Road, they saw a cross being burned near the location of today’s power lines where they cross Walkup.

    The KKK was having a rally there on my grandfather’s land.

    I don’t think my grandfather had any feelings one way or the other about it. If someone wanted to rent his land for something he would oblige without caring what it was they wanted it for.

    The KKK in those days in areas like McHenry County were mainly focused on Jews and Catholics as there weren’t that many Blacks around.

    Ironically, my father married a Catholic girl in the late 30’s. The priest from her parish was not allowed by my father’s parents to attend the wedding, and she was forced to convert to Methodism and later taught Sunday School at the First Methodist Church (the same one that Cal now attends).

    However, over the years, the attitudes softened and in their later years my Protestant grandfather and my Catholic one became best of friends.

    Times change but prejudices change more slowly.

  2. Growing up in northern McHenry County in the 1960’s, my father told me of seeing a cross being burned in a farm field outside Woodstock.

  3. Cal thanks for sharing this story.

    It was very brave of you considering how many racists read and comment here.


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