George Armwood Lynching
Backstory and Context
George Armwood, a mentally-disabled African-American man, was taken from a jail cell by a mob of over 1500 and lynched after being charged with assaulting Salisbury, MD landlord Mary Denston while she made her rounds collecting lease money from tenants. Though the perpetrator fled from the scene, Denston charged Armwood with the attack, and contacted his employer, a local white farmer identified as Mr. Richardson. The next day, an article in the local paper reported that a young man claimed to have seen George Armwood and Mr. Richardson, fleeing the farm and thus raising questions about what Richardson was doing at the scene. However, the alleged crimes of the black man greatly overshadowed any attempt to discover what role a land-owning white farmer may have played. George was found hiding in Richardson's home after the police’s search of the Armwood’s mother's home and the area surrounding the incident failed.
Armwood was removed from Salisbury, Maryland to avoid any hostility from local whites and moved to the nearby town of Princess Anne. But this plan was unsuccessful and a crowd quickly drew outside the jail holding Armwood. The crowd became large enough to pose a legitimate threat, and it was the decision of the authorities to move him further north to Cecil City, and then to Baltimore. Displeased with the decision, the people of Princess Anne pressured their representatives to fight for the return of Armwood. Under the advice and assurance of local judges and a state attorney, Armwood was returned south with the promise that harm would not come to him.
As soon as word of Armwood's return reached the populous, a crowd began to gather near the jail where he was being held. A local judge urged them to disperse, passively threatening anyone that was planning to break into the jail by stating how he knew each one of them. Initially this tactic worked, and the crowd cleared. That same night, however, the crowd returned and fought their way into the jail. The police’s only nonviolent way to stop the crowd was through the use of tear gas. This only held them momentarily, and as soon as the clouds disappeared Armwood was brought into the streets.
According to the Archives of Maryland, before he was hanged, George Armwood was kicked, stabbed numerous times, had his ears removed and his gold teeth cut out before the crowd proceeded to finally lynch him outside of the city judge's home. Deciding their barbaric actions were not enough, the mob dragged Armwood's corpse to the courthouse to be rehung and burned.
There was not one indictment handed down for George Armwood's murder.