Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Community Organizing, Northeast, White Supremacy
On December 4th RAM supporters joined other community members in honoring the memory of Matthew Williams, the victim of a 1931 lynching on the eastern shore of Maryland.
Matthew had worked his whole life for a white business owner named Daniel Elliot, in a box factory, a lumber yard, and for the family personally. On the afternoon of December 4th 1931 Matthew went to speak with his boss about unpaid wages, whatever occurred in this meeting is forever lost to history but at the end of it Daniel Elliot, the unscrupulous capitalist, was shot dead and Matthew was wounded in the leg and the chest by Elliot’s son.
This occurred at a time when Maryland’s eastern shore was a tinderbox of racial tension, only months after a Communist Party lawyer managed to secure a new trial venue in the case of Euel Lee (Orphan Jones) based on the threat of lynching. When white residents of Salisbury learned that Matthew Williams was in the hospital, accused of shooting his white employer, they wasted no time in invading the hospital, tossing Matthew in his semi-conscious state out of the first floor window, before beating him, stringing him up from a tree on the courthouse lawn, burning his body and then dragging it to the border of the black community. White Salisbury residents insisted that they would not allow communists to deny their thirst for blood as they had elsewhere on the shore.
Today the memory of this event is suppressed, not taught in schools or testified to anywhere, instead a plaque honoring confederate General John Winder (commander of southern prisons including the infamous Andersonville) stands on that lawn within feet of the location of Williams’ lynching. Even the facts of the day are disputed, with some arguing that Elliot’s son – possibly in debt to Williams – was the only shooter, intending to frame Williams. The grand jury which was convened to investigate the lynching returned without a single indictment, even though the crowd was estimated to be in excess of 2,000 white residents. Upon the announcement that no person would be held accountable for Williams’ death, the state’s Attorney General remarked “The jury examined 128 witnesses. After considering their testimony, it reports that it can find ‘absolutely’ no evidence to connect, even ‘remotely’, anyone with the crime.”.
Despite a possible intimidation attempt by the Ku Klux Klan who flyered nearby communities in the days before the event, dozens of people left flowers at the temporary memorial set up on the courthouse lawn over the course of the day. While we will never know the real events that occurred before the lynching we know that Matthew Williams will live forever in our hearts and his story will continue to be told.
Rest in power Matthew Williams! The struggle continues!