Shameful Past: Lynchings on Delmarva- Isaac Kemp Lynched in Prin - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Shameful Past: Lynchings on Delmarva- Isaac Kemp Lynched in Princess Anne in 1894

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Police Department where Kemp was lynched Police Department where Kemp was lynched

February is Black History Month and throughout the month WBOC is sharing the stories of 10 men who were lynched on the Eastern Shore of Maryland during the 19th and 20th centuries. 

In our multi-part series: Shameful Past: Lynchings on Delmarva, what follows is a profile of one of those men executed by mob justice. 

Isaac Kemp was lynched in his cell in the Somerset County jail in Princess Anne on June 8, 1894. He was accused of killing a white constable named Ned Carver.

According to the Maryland State Archives, Kemp and about 11 other African American men were accused of getting into a drunken brawl with Carver and his brother, Frank McCready, after the constable was called to a store just north of Pocomoke. 

Former UMES Professor Kirkland Hall says the men received their paycheck earlier in the week, and went to the store to buy alcohol when the events unfolded. 

"Kemp was a strawberry picker back in those days, and after they got paid, they went to a country store and bought some alcohol and of course, got intoxicated," Hall said.

The Baltimore Sun said in a news article, "Isaac Kemp was a black, burly negro about twenty-three years of age and very muscular, with an extremely vicious countenance." 

Accounts vary on the official time the brawl took place, but some accounts, like the Salisbury Advertiser, say Carver was called to the store that Wednesday night after Kemp and friends were being noisy.

 

The Snow Hill Democratic Messenger, 8 June 1894.

 

Newspapers at the time said it wasn't long before Carver and his brother, who tried to defend Carver, were beaten and struck over the head with beer bottles and clubs. Carver died instantly. 

The Maryland State Archives say the men allegedly involved in the attack fled the scene, but were found and taken to the Princess Anne jail only a few hours after. 

After learning of Carver's death, lynch mobs grew angry over Carver's killing, and devised a plan to kill Kemp, who was accused of being the ringleader in the killing. 

"They knocked on the door of the jail and said that they have a prisoner that was involved in an incident and the deputy opened the jail door and everybody rushed in and tried to find Kemp," said Hall.

The Maryland State Archives say the mob demanded the keys to Kemp's cell, but the deputy refused. Other accounts say they resulted to holding Dryden at gunpoint and Dryden eventually handed the keys over, while other news articles say the mob used a battering ram to open it. 

It was reported that the mob had a tough time identifying Kemp initially, but another prisoner identified Kemp as the ringleader. 

Stairs the mob climbed to find Kemp

 

"He was chained to the floor of his jail cell and he was shot 50 times," Hall said.

Though Kemp was never hanged, which is a popular form of lynching, his death is still considered a lynching, according to a book called Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, written by Amy Louise Wood.

According to the book, "Lynching is a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group. It is often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group."

Kemp was lynched and never able to stand trial for his accusations. 

The archives say that after Kemp's murder, Dryden removed the rest of the men and transferred them to the Salisbury Jail in fear of what the mob would do to the others. 

Princess Anne cell door now turned into office

 

The Maryland State Archives say, "When the mob returned to the jail for the others and realized they had been transferred, a request to send a train for the 100 men to take them to Salisbury was denied."

Reports show whites quickly learned that the prisoners were there, and tensions between whites who wanted to kill the prisoners, and blacks who vowed to protect them were brewing. 

As a result, another secret transfer was made and the prisoners were taken to Baltimore City. 

A trial occurred and no one was convicted in the death of Isaac Kemp. It was ruled he died from pistol wounds from an "unknown party," though as many as 75 men stormed the jail.



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