Governor Albert Ritchie
(Newspaper Clippings and Correspondence Relating to the Lynching of
Matthew Williams, Courthouse lawn, Salisbury, MD, December 4, 1931)
MSA S 1048-1 & 10
An Archives of Maryland On Line Publication
First image of 907 images

Last image of 907 images

[over time a hyperlinked table of contents to the Ritchie clipping and correspondence file will appear here.  This publication is dynamic in that it is meant to be made more user friendly as time and resources permit.]

These documents from Maryland Governor Ritchie's files were scanned as part of a presentation by the State Archivist at:

The Baltimore City Historical Society's Third Annual Workshop for Baltimore Historians
Friday May 4, 2007

9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Westminster Hall
517 W. Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD

Twentieth century lynchings on Maryland's Eastern Shore captured the attention of the media state-wide. Court rooms served as a stage for the public drama, and the press coverage became part of the story.

The Workshop discussed the news accounts of these public trials and consider how they may have instigated the carnage or calmed the crowd, disguised the miscreants or exposed the wrongdoers, exposed the racial violence or denied that it occurred. It will consider the differences in the treatment of the news to be found in the Baltimore press, (Sunpaper and Afro American) from those on the Maryland Shore (Salisbury Times, Cambridge Daily Banner, Worcester Democrat).

In a broader sense the Workshop pondered  the difficulty of the task faced by the historian when reconstructing the truth of racial violence, and documenting the vigilante assaults on the rule of law. For the ongoing effort to document lynchings in Maryland, visit: Judge Lynch's Court at:

The workshop took place in the historic Westminster Hall at the corner of Fayette and Greene Street in downtown Baltimore. The Hall sits atop the Western Burying Ground wherein lies Edgar Allan Poe. The workshop featured  the announcement of the winner of the 2006 Joseph Arnold Prize for Outstanding Writing on Baltimore History and the award of the prize generously provided by Thomas C. and Nancy B. Martel. After the workshop there was a guided tours of the Burying Ground.


See the full December 12, 1931 illustrated  issue of the Baltimore Afro American on pink paper which reported on the Williams Lynching. These images are  from the full issue of the Afro preserved in Governor's Ritchie's file   (MSA S 1048-1 & 10). Note that this is a large pdf file (51 mb).

The proceedings were recorded.  Excerpts of  Dr. Papenfuse's presentation as an mpeg file can be downloaded here.  Note that it is a large file (314 mb)..

In his presentation the State Archivist referred to a 1935 exhibit at the Maryland Institute of Art and a chapter on the contents of that exhibit from a book about Race Consciousness, edited by Judith Jackson Fossett and Jeffrey A. Tucker, New York: New York University Press, 1997.  The author, Maragaret Rose Vendryes, has graciously consented to "Hanging on Their Walls: An Art Commmentary on Lynching, The Forgotten 1935 Art Exhibition", pp. 153-176, being available on line at this site for educational and personal use only.  Permission to quote or to reproduce in any form for further distribution must be obtained from the author:

Maryland Institute of Art exhibit: An Art Commentary on Lynching, April 1935

As an on-going research resource, the Maryland State Archives maintains a history of lynching in Maryland section of its Legacy of Slavery web site:   In 2005, the Archives Research Interns who are responsible for updating and adding to the site were privileged to hear a lecture from Emma Coleman Jordan which was reported in the Archives Bulldog;

Lynching Presentation
by Alexis Thompson

  Emma Coleman Jordan
On July 18, 2005  the Maryland State Archives  interns and several staff members enjoyed a presentation on lynching by Professor Emma Coleman Jordan. She is currently a professor of law at Georgetown, having previously taught for twelve years at the University of California, Davis. One of her most prominent accolades was being a part of Anita Hillís counsel team during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. She is also the author of several books and articles, including her upcoming book entitled Lynching and the Dark Metaphor of American Law, which was also the subject of  her speech.

Professor Jordan approached the idea of reparations for slavery in this country. She concluded that it would be impossible to give reparations to all slave descendants due to individual litigation boundaries, and that it would be more realistic to look at events such as lynching in order to agree on a settlement for an individualís family. In the discussion of lynchings she emphasized the importance of  archival resources. She presented evidence of several periods of black post-slavery oppression, including race riots and lynchings across the country. The research itself has led her to several archival sources, including the county archives in Springfield, Missouri and the Tuskegee Institute news clipping files. It was very interesting to see how important and valuable an archives can be as an individual progresses toward a research goal.

Just as the Ritchie clipping and correspondence file is a rich resource for the study of lynching and the attitudes towards lynching, so too are other sources from public and private records which have yet to be fully explored.  For example, in June 2002, the State Archivist addressed the Maryland Municipal League about preserving and making accessible municipal records in Maryland. In those remarks he talked about an Annapolis City Councilman and an Annapolis lynching:
The oldest extant municipality in Maryland is Annapolis, the capital, founded in 1694 and chartered by Queen Anne in 1708.  Over the years the surviving town records have been carefully inventoried and retired to the State Archives, making their historical records one of the best municipal collections in any state, comprising over half of all the municipal records in our collections.  We have placed the Annapolis records inventories and schedules for retention and disposition on line at, where you can review them at your leisure, but I would like to close with an example that in part emerges from the official records of the town, a story that has meaning for us on a number of different levels.  It might be called the life and times of Councilman Wiley H. Bates.  From his biographer we know that Bates was born into slavery in North Carolina in August, 1859.  After the Civil War, he worked as a water boy and freight boy on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.  His father died when he was 13, and Bates found himself working on a boat that traveled on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal between Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Maryland.  It wasn't long before Bates' mother sought a more stable life for her son and moved with him to Annapolis, where he worked culling oysters.  When he got a little older he joined Asbury United Methodist Church, the oldest black congregation in town.  Incredibly energetic and optimistic in a society that had afforded him no formal education to speak of and institutionalized racial discrimination, he worked hard at anything he tried:  waiting tables, crabbing, splitting wood and peddling it on the streets.  His outgoing and friendly nature earned him a trusting clientele that later patronized the grocery store he opened at 54 Cathedral Street while still in his early 20s.  He took a bride and made a home for himself a few doors down from the store.  As the grocery business grew, Bates became known for his fair business practices and honest dealings with his customers, who called him the "Negro Gentleman."3

Bates' popularity and leadership skills earned him a seat on the Annapolis city council in July 1897, when he was elected Annapolis' third consecutive black alderman representing the third (later fourth) ward and it is for this service we turn to the municipal records.  During his two years on the council, Bates served as a member of the standing committees on public buildings and electric lights.4  Bates worked with the mayor, the city counselor, and five other council members to conduct such city business as electing city police officers, overseeing the grading and paving of city streets, approving the installation of electric lights and telephone poles throughout the city and the laying of additional track for the Annapolis and Baltimore Short Line R.R. Co., as well as the granting or denying of city liquor licenses.  Far from being a passive member of the council, Bates took a leading roll as an advocate for city blacks from his earliest days on the council.  In early October 1897, he spearheaded an effort to petition the legislature for funds to build the city's first public school for "colored" children.5  When in May 1898 the city council ordered an additional appropriation to help pay the salaries of teachers at the all white Annapolis High School in order for the school year to extend into June, Bates made sure that the salaries of black teachers were increased for the same purpose.6  In October 1898, Bates proposed a council resolution condemning the lynching of  Wright Smith, a black man accused of assaulting two white women, who was dragged from the Annapolis City jail in the middle of the night and then shot in the back while trying to flee a mob of angry white men.  Bates called the lynching a disgrace to the city and cited his belief that Smith would have been brought to justice shortly by due process of  law.  Although Governor Lloyd Lowndes  publicly condemned the lynching as "an outrage,"7 Bates' resolution was defeated in the city council with only one other member voting in favor of it.8

Bates did not serve again on the Council but his place was taken by other members of the African American community.  By 1908 racism was so rampant in the city and elsewhere in the state, that the Maryland legislature, having lost at state-wide referendum, attempted to disenfranchise African Americans at the local level by passing a new ordinance for Annapolis that in effect said that if your grandfather could not vote, you could not either (1908 Laws of Maryland, Chapter 525).  That meant that the descendants of African Americans slave or free, could no longer vote or hold office.  By 1908 James Albert Adams was serving on the Annapolis City Council in place of Wiley Bates.  He lost his seat, not to regain it until 1915, when the Supreme Court upheld the right to vote and hold office of another Annapolitan, John B. Anderson, a veteran of the Civil War.

By then Wiley Bates had retired from the grocery business in 1912, and was one of the wealthiest black residents in town.  He invested in local real estate and built on his reputation as a champion of improved education for blacks.   In the 1920s, Bates donated $500 of his own money toward the purchase of land to build a new black high school in Annapolis.  The new school opened in 1933 and was named the "Wiley Bates High School" in his honor.  At the age of 69 he published an autobiographical book of "sayings" that told of his deep Christian faith, his belief in the value of perseverance, hard work, thrift, brotherly love and a good measure of "pluck."  Aware that the basic needs of food and shelter for many of the older blacks in Annapolis were not being met on a regular basis,9 Bates directed in his will that one of his Annapolis homes be incorporated as "The Bates Old Peoples Home" to be used as a refuge for elderly blacks "regardless of sect."10  He died in 1935 at the age of 76, a testimony to the fruitfulness of diligence, optimism, and the persistent struggle for civil, economic  and social freedom.

We can tell Bates's story today largely because the municipal sources were preserved in a central location and made available to the public.  From the proceedings of the Annapolis city council dating from 1720, the original bylaws and ordinances dating from 1779, city commission reports from 1843, and the mayor's case files from the 1950s, a wealth of information lies at the fingertips of the anyone wishing to more completely uncover the secrets of  life in Annapolis over the past 350 years.


3.  Wiley H. Bates, Researches, Sayings and Life of Wiley H. Bates (Annapolis:  1928), p. 25.

4.  The other standing committees were finance, streets, Market House, fire department, and by-laws.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, p. 350.

5.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, p. 374.  The Stanton School was built in 1900.  Before 1900, the Gallilean Fisherman School, founded by Methodists, and St. Mary's Catholic Church served as private schools for black children.  See Philip L. Brown, The Other Annapolis 1900-1950 (Annapolis:  The Annapolis Publishing Company, 1994), p. 53.

6.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, pp. 419-420.

7.  "Annapolis Lynchers," The Baltimore Weekly Sun, 8 October 1898.

8.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1898-1901, MSA M49-15, 1/22/1/67, p. 27.

9.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, p. 371.

10.  Maryland State Archives ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills) MSA T2559-11, WMN 1, 1/1/10/56.

11.  Maryland Municipal League.

Last Page, Ritchie clipping and correspondence file

prepared by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, May 11, 2007 and revised May 24, 2007.  Please address any questions or suggestions to
Governor Albert Ritchie
(Newspaper Clippings and Correspondence Relating to the Lynching of
Matthew Williams, Courthouse lawn, Salisbury, MD, December 4, 1931)
MSA S 1048-1 & 10
An Archives of Maryland On Line Publication