Vigil Planned to Remember Salisbury Lynching Victim - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Vigil Planned to Remember Salisbury Lynching Victim

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Outside of Wicomico County Courthouse where Matthew Williams was lynched in 1931. (Photo: SURJ Delmarva) Outside of Wicomico County Courthouse where Matthew Williams was lynched in 1931. (Photo: SURJ Delmarva)

SALISBURY, Md.- Dec. 4 will mark the 85th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Salisbury's history.  But one local organization is making a point to not only remember the past, but use it as a tool to help the community grow closer together in the future.

James Yamakawa is the head organizer for the Delmarva chapter of the group "Showing Up for Racial Justice."  Outside of the old courthouse in downtown Salisbury on Thursday, Yamakawa recalled the 85-year-old story of Matthew Williams, an African-American man from Salisbury.

"They basically took him from PGH, Peninsula General, all the way up Division Street to a large tree in front of the Wicomico County Courthouse and they hung him. And afterward they took his body and dragged it through the black neighborhood of Salisbury,  Isabella Avenue and all around there. Then they dosed him with 40 gallons of gasoline and burned him," Yamakawa said.

Williams was accused of shooting and killing his boss and wounding himself during the altercation.  Yamakawa said while this incident, the lynching and burning of Williams, may be a low point in local history, it is important to remember and acknowledge the past.

"Even though we weren't there, we have a responsibility to each other," Yamakawa said.  "We have a responsibility to basically know that we are part of something even if we don't want to be."

And while remembering and shedding light on a dark moment in history may be difficult, Yamakawa and his group believe it could go a long way in healing any divides in the future.

"You have to be able to speak the truth in order to know where we are.  And in order to come together again, we have to be willing to ask for forgiveness."

The vigil Sunday will begin at 7 p.m. at the corner of Carroll  and Division streets across from the hospital.  The group will walk to the courthouse and observe a moment of silence.  The Facebook page for the event can be found here.

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