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Councilmembers introduce resolution to establish Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Riemer, Jawando and Rice call for Commission to
support community dialogue about racial justice
and to establish memorial for African Americans
who were lynched in Montgomery County

ROCKVILLE, Md., Jan. 22, 2019—Today Councilmembers Hans Riemer, Will Jawando and Craig Rice introduced a resolution to establish the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission. This commission will support community efforts to work with the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to recognize the victims of lynchings in Montgomery County and help the County understand and take steps to address its own history of racial injustice.

James Stowe, director of the Office of Human Rights (OHR), gave remarks during the introduction of the resolution. OHR will take a leading role in facilitating the Commission’s activities.

Councilmember Riemer said, “After the Civil War, Americans tragically embraced a reconciliation that once again left African Americans behind. Slavery led to Jim Crow and segregation and to poverty and mass incarceration. This inequitable system was maintained through acts of racial terrorism such as lynching. While Montgomery County today is an inclusive and progressive community, the County was nevertheless an actor in the historic injustices that created circumstances we are still grappling with now. We need to better understand that history, own up to it, and seek to overcome the past with new initiatives to promote justice and equality.”

Councilmember Jawando said, “We cannot mask our history if we are to ever end systemic racism, social injustice and domestic terrorism delivered upon young black men in America even today. Let’s forever remember the names of George Peck, John Diggs and Sidney Randolph, and acknowledge our past of persecuting and murdering African Americans. This resolution is a healing balm on a horrible wound. We seek to inspire the residents of Montgomery County to confront racism and end hatred in our communities by promoting human dignity and social justice.”

Councilmember Rice said, “Bringing to light the atrocities that happened to George Peck, John Diggs, Sidney Randolph and acknowledging their lynchings is long overdue. These victims were murdered and they were denied due process, and this affects our community as a whole. It’s important to spotlight the horrors of our past and to facilitate better racial dialogue in the future.”

At least three documented lynchings occurred in the County, two in 1880 and one in 1896. EJI, a foundation located in Alabama, has documented more than 4,000 lynchings in more than 800 counties nationwide, mostly between the years 1880 and 1940. To recognize lynching victims, EJI created The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The museum features a walkway with 800 worn steel columns or pillars hanging from the roof and laying on the floor, engraved with the names of lynching victims.

“The goal of the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission,” said Councilmember Riemer, “is to provide a process for the County Government as well as Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, the Arts and Humanities Council and other agencies to support the community dialogue necessary for Montgomery County to claim its memorial.”

Director Jim Stowe, Office of Human Rights, said, “It is our hope that this resolution will enable us to put together a team to not only tell the story of these lynchings, but also to facilitate a broader knowledge of the lessons of our history and bring about reconciliation. We hope that persons of goodwill from all across this community will come together and engage in honest conversations about this violent history that took place in Montgomery County.”

The Commission would be comprised of community leaders, including at least ten public members who would be nominated by the County Executive in consultation with the Office of Human Rights and confirmed by the Council.

All Councilmembers cosponsored the resolution.

The resolution to establish the Commission can be viewed here. Video of the remarks given during the introduction of the resolution can be viewed here.

The full text of the resolution is below.

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COUNTY COUNCIL

FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND




Lead Sponsors: Councilmembers Hans Riemer, Will Jawando, and Craig Rice

Co-sponsors: Councilmember Andrew Friedson, Council Vice President Sidney Katz, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, Council President Nancy Navarro and Councilmembers Tom Hucker and Evan Glass


SUBJECT:                Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission

Background

 

  1. Lynchings are violent and public acts of racial terrorism against African-Americans that occurred primarily between 1880 and 1940 across the United States.
  2. At least three lynchings took place in Montgomery County: George W. Peck on January 10, 1880; John Diggs on July 24, 1880; and Sidney Randolph on July 4, 1896. John Diggs and Sidney Randolph were both lynched after being abducted from the Montgomery County Jail in Rockville, where the Council Office Building stands today. These lynchings are part of Montgomery County’s troubled history of violence and discrimination against African-Americans. The County was home to thousands of enslaved individuals and the economy benefited from the exploitation of their labor. Following emancipation, segregation was enforced in schools, public facilities, and housing. Covenants and zoning plans were adopted to separate African-Americans and White people, while inadequate and unequal services were provided to African-American neighborhoods and residents.
  3. The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has documented more than 4,000 lynchings from over 800 counties in the United States as part of its Community Remembrance Project. To recognize the victims of these lynchings and spread knowledge of America’s legacy of slavery and racial injustice, EJI created The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened to the public on April 26, 2018, in Montgomery, Alabama.
  4. The first memorial of its kind, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice contains monuments for each county where lynchings have been documented.  EJI invites these communities to collect and display soil from the sites, place historical markers at the sites of lynchings, and claim their monuments.

Action

The County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland approves the following resolution:

  1. A Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission is established to support the goal of bringing the community together to claim our monument and promote understanding of our history.
  1. The Commission shall be comprised of community leaders, who will work with EJI and other stakeholders to:
  1. claim and install the County’s monument commemorating the three locations in the County where lynchings have been documented;
  2. create and install historical markers for each of the three locations;
  3. collect and display soil from each of the three locations;
  4. design programs to advance the dialogue that the monument, historical markers, and soil should foster
  1. The Commission shall have at least ten (10) public members, who will be nominated by the County Executive in consultation with the Office of Human Rights and confirmed by the Council. The Commission will have ex officio members, including one representative each from the following organizations:
  1. Montgomery County Human Rights Commission
  2. Rockville Human Rights Commission
  3. Lincoln Park Historical Foundation
  4. Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission
  5. Maryland Lynching Memorial Project
  6. Arts & Humanities Commission of Montgomery County
  7. Montgomery College
  8. Montgomery County Public Schools
  1. The Montgomery County Office of Human Rights will provide staff support to the Commission.
  1. The Commission will provide an annual report of its activities to the Executive and Council. In December of 2022, the Commission will include in its annual report an estimated timeline to complete its work.
Release ID: 19-022
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 240-777-7926