The criticism also comes amid a racial reckoning stemming from recent deaths of Americans of color at the hands of police, reigniting a discussion around the country’s racist past that included lynching, violent and horrific murders of Black people at the hands of White people.
Willie Flowers, president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, questioned the authenticity of Hogan’s posthumous pardons of lynching victims, including for many who were never convicted of crimes and were just charged or alleged to have committed crimes.
“This is just political posturing that nobody needs right now,” Flowers told CNN on Sunday. “If the governor’s going to do something, he should with his power as governor look at the many broken systems based on the same type of vitriol, contempt, hatred, that caused the murders of these gentlemen. Every system that has been broken, as the governor of Maryland, he alone can change all of it.”
He continued, “Celebrating himself by reminding people that lynchings happened is not the best thing you can do, it’s actually the least that he could do.”
Flowers also questioned the motives behind Hogan’s announcement. Some have suggested the term-limited Maryland governor could emerge as a GOP leader on the political stage for national office.
A spokesperson for Hogan did not respond to Flowers’ claims.
The Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and students at Loch Raven Technical Academy in Towson requested a pardon for Cooper, and Hogan said Saturday after studying Cooper’s case, it led him to review all the cases of lynchings in the state during that time.
“The State of Maryland has long been on the forefront of civil rights, dating back to Justice Thurgood Marshall’s legal battle to integrate the schools and our national reckoning on race,” he said at an event dedicating a memorial to Cooper. “Today, we are once again leading the way, as together, we continue the work to build a more perfect union. … My hope is that this action will at least in some way help to right these horrific wrongs and perhaps to bring a measure of peace to the memories of these individuals, and to their descendants and their loved ones.”
Asked how other victims were selected for a pardon, the legal criteria for each case and the review process for the pardons, Michael Ricci, communications director for Hogan, told CNN each case “met the standard that it was an extrajudicial killing that violated rights to due process and equal protection of law.”
“The Office of Legal Counsel reviewed the available documentation, including the information submitted by the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project,” Ricci wrote in an email Sunday.
CNN reached out to Stacey Johnson, principal of Loch Raven Technical Academy, for comment Sunday.
“Dear @GovLarryHogan (.) When doing a pardon, you might check with the people doing the history and work (us) for HoCo, so you pardon the CORRECT person! You pardoned Jacob’s dad. It’s “Jacob Henson, Jr.” Descendant could have told you also, had someone asked,” Jareaux wrote.
Flowers said years ago families wanted to know that their relatives were innocent when they were chased down and murdered because it “released the shame of them being crooks, and they were probably crooks for other things,” but added this was not the case with these posthumous pardons.
“These individuals, like most victims of lynching, were never crooks. They were just targets and victims of lynch mobs and that’s what he (Hogan) can’t articulate,” Flowers said.
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