The James Taylor Justice Coalition (JTJC) – established in July 2019 – is one of several county initiatives devoted to advancing racial justice in Maryland.
JTJC is Sumner Hall’s response to the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Law (HB 307) which unanimously passed both houses of the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Hogan in February 2019. This law authorized a state Commission to research cases of racially motivated lynchings and to hold public meetings and regional hearings where a lynching of an African American by a white mob has been documented.
Primed with the truth about the past and knowledge of the present, the people of Kent County, Maryland, will undertake the necessary changes to insure justice and equality for all.
To educate our community about the injustice of James Taylor’s 1892 lynching in Chestertown, Maryland, and to make the connection between the racial terror lynchings of the past and mass incarceration, incidents of police brutality, and discrimination of today.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND ACTIVITIES TO DATE
Since July 2019, JTJC has held a community meeting on this state-wide initiative; displayed an exhibit about the James Taylor story and the implications it has on life in today’s Kent County; offered a virtual book club that discussed Sherrilyn Ifill’s On the Courthouse Lawn; and produced Justice Day 2021. In addition to serving as an implementing partner of the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, JTJC is an active member of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, and a Community Remembrance Project of the Equal Justice Initiative. We are fortunate to be able to draw upon the resources of these three key organizations as we strive to accomplish our goal and mission:
- Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission is charged with implementing the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Law (HB 307). It is currently holding public hearings across the state and also provides genealogical research support to local communities. JTJC will assist with the research about the Chestertown lynching of James Taylor and will provide logistical and marketing support to the Commission for its meeting in Kent County, scheduled in the summer of 2022. (https://msa.maryland.gov/lynching-truth-reconciliation/)
- Maryland Lynching Memorial Project is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization that works to advance the cause of reconciliation in our state by documenting the history of racial terror lynchings, advocating for public acknowledgement of these murders and working to honor and dignify the lives of the victims. (www.mdlynchingmemorial.org)
- Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentence, or abused in state jails and prisons. It is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. It also works with communities that share its mission of changing the narrative about race in America through its Community Remembrance initiative. Its Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is part of its national effort to create new spaces dedicated to address the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation, which shapes many issues today. EJI collaborates with communities to memorialize documented victims of racial violence and to foster meaningful dialogue about race and justice. One of its dialogue-promoting programs is the sponsorship of high school essay contests. (www.eji.org)
Justice Day – May 14, 2022 featured the reading of the winning essay by a Kent County High School students and the awarding of $6,000 in prizes contributed by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to three additional students. It also included musical and spoken word performances. Finally, in solidarity with communities across the United States, there was a Soil Collection Ceremony to fill glass containers of dirt from the site of the lynching of James Taylor for display at Sumner Hall and at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
Delivery of the Soil to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice – July 2022: A six-day bus tour for interested Kent County residents is planned for the week of July 25 – 30, 2022. In addition to delivering the jars of soil, those on the tour will visit sites in Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery and Atlanta: Civil Rights Institute, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Edmund Pettus Bridge, Legacy Museum, National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, The King Center, Tomb of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Community Discussions and Workshops: In order to advance the understanding of the impact of and connection between past racial terror lynchings and racial, economic and social injustice today, JTJC is committed to creating opportunities for having meaningful conversations as the basis for community action.