Op/Ed by Carl Snowden: “Plaque Unveiled to Honor Lynching Victim”. The Story of Henry Davis.

(ANNAPOLIS – December 21, 2021) – Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. There are some anniversaries, some people would prefer not to remember. Such is the case with the lynching of a man named Henry Davis.

That lynching occurred four days before Christmas. It took place in Annapolis on December 21, 1906.

To read the details of the lynching of Henry Davis is to find yourself asking aloud “How could this have happened”?

Maybe some background will be helpful. It was a hiemal cold December day in 1906. Christmas shoppers were hurriedly moving up and down Main Street.
The shops had their items for sale in their windows. People were laughing and at the bottom of Main Street, Carolers had gathered, and they were singing Christmas songs.
“Silent Night” and “I am Dreaming of a White Christmas”. It was a day full of anticipation and in just four days Christians would be celebrating the birth of the Christ.
Suddenly, there was an interruption as the word begin to spread that a “Negro brute” had ravished a White woman.
As the word began quickly spreading among Annapolitans, African Americans began gathering their children and taking them home to a safe refuge and the comfort of their Black neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, a group of White Annapolitans decided that the “Negro” who had been arrested must be ‘dealt with’.

These vigilantes began gathering. They knew that the “Negro” was locked up in the jail, then located on Calvert Street. The jail is where the Arundel Center and Gotts Garage now stands. It was also located in the Black ward. It was near Black churches and businesses.

These White vigilantes waited until the sun went down. It was dark when they approached the jail. It was eerie and these men were determined. “Silent Night” was replaced with deadly intentions. They met little resistance from the White men (guards) who were to protect the “Negro”.

He was quickly taken from the jail. It is estimated that 50 people participated in this act of racial terror.
The “Negro” was paraded through Black neighborhoods as a demonstration of what would happen to any one of them who dared to defy their subjugation.
As the crowd became more boisterous and dangerous law-enforcement officials were called upon not to protect the “Negro” but rather the State House and the Governor’s Mansion, which was just blocks away.
Someone in the crowd started shouting “Hang him!” This became a chant that could be heard for blocks. “Hang him!”
They walked Henry Davis toward St. John’s College, and they found a tree. Someone threw a rope over one of the limbs and the “Negro” struggled; his hands had been tied behind his back.
Then, they lifted the “Negro” up. He was a big brute according to the press. Nevertheless, they were able to hoist him up. After he was sufficiently raised up to the appropriate height and with the rope securely around his neck, they released him.
As his body was twisting in the air, the rope broke, and the “Negro” fell. However, he was still alive.
He was not dead. The enraged mob pulled out their pistols and guns and shot him over 100 times. The “Negro” was now dead.
His mutilated body was now beyond recognition. An enterprising White spectator took a photo of this gruesome sight and would later create a souvenir postcard and sell them 3 for a quarter.
Henry Davis’ body lay there for hours decomposing. The scent that it produced was unbearable.
Finally, the powers to be allowed the “Negro’s” corpse to be picked up by a Black mortician and he was buried in an unmarked grave at what is now the Brewer Hill Cemetery on West Street.
On the 95th anniversary of his death, the then-Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer and others gathered at the Brewer Hill Cemetery to remember Mr. Davis.
A plaque in the cemetery listing all of the then known victims of lynchings in the State of Maryland was dedicated on that day.
No one was ever indicted or convicted for the murder of Henry Davis.

The Evening Capital
in an editorial the day after his murder said that the hanging of the “Negro” Henry Davis had given the city a “Blackeye”.
Meanwhile, the next day shoppers would continue preparing for the Christmas holiday. A holiday that recognized the birth and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The songs “Silent Night” and “Strange Fruits” both tell a story. The lyrics of “Silent Night” begins with:
“Silent night, holy night
All is calm and all is bright”.
The beginning lyrics for “Strange Fruit”:
“Southern trees bearing a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root”
There are some anniversaries some people would like not to remember, but the truth is that lynchings and crucifixions do have something in common. They remind us that God and evil cannot be allowed to coexist peacefully. “Sleep in heavenly peace” and “Rest in Peace” are not the same.
“Merry Christmas” and “Justice” are not the same. Yet, both need to be recognized and practice year- round.
Today marks the 115th anniversary of the lynching of Henry Davis. There will be no wreath laid at his unmarked grave. No prayers lifted up in Houses of Worship. No proclamations from the Governor, county executive, sheriff, or mayor. No flags will fly at half-staff. No college students attending St. John’s College, United States Naval Academy, or Anne Arundel Community College will be taught about Henry Davis. Private schools or Anne Arundel County Public Schools students will not learn anything about this horrific day that occurred in the City of Annapolis.

However, at some point in the next four days, you will hear the song “Silent Night” and if you have truly read this essay, you will also hear “Strange Fruit”.

One song is about an infant child and the other is about men who never received justice.

Nor will they rest in peace until someone remembers the real reason that Jesus Christ died on the cross.