A solemn crowd of people marched through Downtown Salisbury on Saturday, arriving at the Wicomico Courthouse to dedicate a memorial remembering three men lynched in Salisbury.
A broad community partnership, spearheaded by the Wicomico Truth and Reconciliation Initiative, brought together many stakeholders including Mayor Jake Day, the city of Salisbury and the Salisbury Lynching Memorial Task Force.
They worked with the Equal Justice Initiative to have the plaque placed at the corner of Main and South Division streets.
The event honored the memory of Garfield King (May 26, 1898), Matthew Williams (Dec. 4, 1931), and an unknown murder victim (Dec. 6, 1931).
The lynching that occurred in a public display nearly 90 years ago involved 23-year-old Matthew Williams, who was pulled from a bed in the old Negro Ward at Peninsula General Hospital by a mob that was angered by the shooting death of Williams’ employer earlier that day.
Williams, who was being treated for gunshot wounds he received during the shooting incident, was stabbed with an ice pick and then dragged behind a truck three blocks to the courthouse Lawn where his body was strung up in a tree.
Saturday’s “Silent No More” ceremony was part of an all-day event that included the symbolic march following the route of the Williams lynch mob.
A memorial sign now stands at the corner of Main and Division streets.
“The sign won't change what happened,” said James Yamakawa. “But it is a challenge. A challenge to tell the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Not just the truth about who we were, but the truth about who we still are. … And if we can tell the truth, then maybe together we can figure out where we're going.”
There was also a symbolic soil collection from the site where Williams was lynched. A jar was filled for each of the three lynching victims in Salisbury’s history.
In January 2020, Mayor Jake Day announced that he would be accepting the recommendation of the City’s Human Rights Advisory Committee to establish a Lynching Memorial Task Force to facilitate the creation of a permanent monument in honor and solemn remembrance of the three American citizens who lost their lives at the hands of lynch mobs in Wicomico County.
Funding for this memorial was made possible by the Equal Justice Initiative, which was established in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, and operates based out of Montgomery, Ala., as a non-profit organization. They are committed to starting conversations, shining a light on injustice, and changing the overall narrative about race in our country.