Saturday, December 4, 2021

Short Film Revisits 1931 Maryland Lynching

Premiering virtually today, December 4th, exactly 90 years after a white mob dragged 23-year-old Black man Matthew Williams from a hospital bed and hung him in front of the courthouse in downtown Salisbury, Maryland, the short film Hidden In Full View is part of a one-two punch from Dr. Charles Chavis, an assistant professor at George Mason University.

Next month, a book will follow, titled The Silent Shore: The Lynching of Matthew Williams and the Politics of Racism in the Free State. Chavis produced and co-wrote the short film.

Baltimore Afro-American
December 12, 1931

Williams was hospitalized with gunshot wounds after a wage dispute with his white boss, who was found murdered. Following today's screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring Chavis as well as Jeannie Jones, a descendant of Williams, and a half-dozen other participants.

From a recent PBS article:

On December 4, 1931, a mob of white men in Salisbury, Maryland, lynched and set ablaze a twenty-three-year-old Black man named Matthew Williams. His gruesome murder was part of a wave of silent white terrorism in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, which exposed Black laborers to white rage in response to economic anxieties. For nearly a century, the lynching of Matthew Williams has lived in the shadows of the better-known incidents of racial terror in the deep South, haunting both the Eastern Shore and the state of Maryland as a whole.  

Following the lynching, the then-governor of Maryland engaged a Pinkerton detective, Patsy Johnson, to go undercover and investigate the Williams killing. Johnson gathered damning evidence that confirmed several local law enforcement officers as ringleaders of the lynching, burning and desecration of the man's body. Nevertheless, a grand jury declined to indict the perpetrators.

Chavis made the short film in partnership with Cue Films, a company headed by Nigerian siblings Katrina and Samson Binutu.

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