Lynching victim Townsend Cook will be memorialized on June 2, 2021 at 7:00PM, the date of his killing in 1885 in Westminster. The remembrance gathering has been planned by the Carroll County Coalition of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, a program of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching in America. The Maryland Lynching Memorial Project reports that 40 Black American victims of racial terror were lynched in Maryland between 1854 and 1950.
According to local Steering Team co-leader Jack Del Nunzio, “June 2, 2021 will mark 136 years since Townsend Cook, a Black nineteen or twenty-year-old, was lynched by masked white citizens in Westminster, Maryland. Cook was survived by formerly enslaved parents, Margaret and Augustus, and three siblings: Dennis, Roderick, and Mary. After being accused of assault with very little scrutiny, some 40 white Carroll Countians violently abducted Cook from the Old Jail House and subsequently hanged him from an oak tree adjacent to present day Route 27. Before Cook’s body was autopsied and buried at the Almshouse (known today as the Carroll County Farm Museum), it was desecrated with bullets and pieces of the bloodied rope were distributed as mementos throughout the city of Westminster,” adds Del Nunzio who is also a Public History MA Student at American University and Alumnus of McDaniel College’s History Department.
“On June 2, 2021, flanked by Westminster’s Old Jail House, our community will begin working toward truth telling, restorative justice, and healing by centering Townsend Cook: his humanity, his family, his descendants, and the Black Carroll Countians who live with the enduring trauma and everyday reality of anti-Black violence,” Del Nunzio added.
Other speakers and participants at the remembrance ceremony include Diane Hurd of Union Memorial Baptist Church, local coalition co-leader Rev. Erin Snell, and former President of the Carroll County NAACP Jean Lewis. Other guest speakers will be announced as they are confirmed.
Dr. Roxanna Harlow, co-leader of the Carroll County Coalition Steering Team, notes, “There is a narrative in Carroll County that racism is in the past and restricted to a few bad apples. But the past is still present today, reflected in displays of the Confederate flag, racial slurs heard in school hallways, policy decisions around transportation and planning, and more. Tensions persist and wounds fester when racial violence – physical and/or social – is never acknowledged or addressed. By memorializing Townsend Cook, we hope to inspire cross racial conversations around racial reconciliation and equity.”
In a ceremony held on May 8, Townsend Cook, along with 33 other Black victims of lynching in Maryland, was pardoned posthumously by Governor Larry Hogan.
It was a very nice event at the Westminster Jail for the Townsend Cook: A Gathering of Remembrance.
Pam Zappardino lead the ceremony.
Candle Lighting by Jesse Harrington and Clyde Johnson
Ava Shivers talked about the concerns of people of color today in America.
Diane Hurd told the history of the lynching from a first person voice.
Roxanna Harlow lead a Libation Ceremony
A Student Speaker, Jordan Brooks spoke from the heart about being a young man in Carroll County.