TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) -- It's been more than 135 years since 15-year-old Howard Cooper was lynched. Now a plaque marks the spot he was hanged, an acknowledgment of a scar on Maryland's past.
"Pieces of the rope they were used to kill him were passed out as souvenirs," Gov. Larry Hogan said during a ceremony to remember Cooper, a Black boy who was lynched in July of 1885.
"His body was left there on display, until his mother had to retrieve him," Hogan said.
Cooper, who was convicted of assault and rape by an all-white jury after less than a minute of deliberation, was dragged from his cell by 75 masked men and hanged as he waited for his lawyers to appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"There was nothing equal, just, or lawful about the way Howard Cooper's life was taken," Hogan said.
After receiving a petition, started by middle school students at Loch Raven Technical Academy, Hogan granted a posthumous pardon to Cooper and 34 other racial lynching victims in Maryland.
"I was so inspired by that group of young middle school students, because we have no greater responsibility as leaders of a democracy than preserving for future generations the importance of clearly differentiating the difference of right from wrong," he said.
The ceremony was organized by the Baltimore County Coalition of the Maryland Lynching Memorial, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Baltimore County government. A historical marker is now planted at the spot of Cooper's death.
"It's something that we need to remember. We need to acknowledge the things that have happened," said Barry Williams, of the Baltimore County Coalition of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project. "We have our lens for 2021, and even in 2021 looking back at that time, we know it was wrong."
At the ceremony, Equal Justice also awarded the finalist in the Racial Justice Essay Contest with scholarships totaling at least $5,000.
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