In downtown Salisbury, on the east coast of Maryland, the historic Wicomico County Courthouse stands today as in 1931. Back then, this alleged courtroom was the site of a brutal extrajudicial murder: the lynching of a 23-year-old – old Matthew Williams. Charles Chavis Jr .: You know, he was a normal kid. I mean, he played with his cousins. He loved to watch pictures. And during the Great Depression, he had money in two bank accounts, he had a stable job, he worked and was able to maintain a job. Charles Chavis, Jr. is a historian at George Mason University and author of the forthcoming book The Quiet Coast: The Lynching of Matthew Williams and the Politics of Racism in the Free State. The gruesome lynching of Matthew Williams was widely reported at the time, including in the Black-owned newspaper The Afro-American in neighboring Baltimore.
While there are different versions of what happened that day, we do know that Williams worked for a wealthy white business owner in Salisbury. After the altercation, Williams’ boss was dead, and Williams himself received several gunshot wounds, but survived.
As soon as it became known, a white crowd formed in the hospital where he was taken. The nurse in charge of the isolated black ward reportedly stepped aside to authorize his abduction. Charles Chavis Jr: There is a famous quote published in The Baltimore Sun where she says, “If you’re going to pick him up, take him.” Brian Palmer: The wounded Williams was thrown out of the hospital window and dragged a few blocks from the courthouse. The white mafia tortured, hung, and then burned his body. The crime is captured in this graphic, published in the Baltimore Morning Sun newspaper.