CUMBERLAND — The Equal Justice Initiative in partnership with The Brownsville Project, Allegany County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Committee and the Allegany County NAACP, Branch #7007 invites the community to participate in a series of remembrance projects to memorialize William Burns, a local Black resident who was lynched in Cumberland on Oct. 6, 1907.
The first remembrance project for Burns took place on Nov. 1, 2020 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church for the annual All Saints Day that also marks Maryland’s Slavery Emancipation Day. Video of the event is available at www.thebrownsvilleproject.com/acltrc. Members of the community participated in a soil collection ceremony and dedication by placing soil from the ground where Burns was lynched into jars. The jars of soil will be displayed at exhibits throughout the community and one jar will be displayed at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, alongside jars of soil from other victims of racial terror lynching throughout the United States.
The committee plans to participate in all of the EJI community remembrance projects, including placement of a historical marker, a student essay contest and the placement of a monument.
The Equal Justice Initiative Racial Justice Essay Contest is open to Allegany County public high school students at www.bit.ly/EJIessaycontest. Students are challenged to write an essay that reflects on a historical event of racial injustice, connect that event to present-day issues and include their own experiences of the issue. The deadline to submit an essay is April 30. EJI may choose up to five winners and award up to $5,000 in scholarships and prizes.
Sarah Welsh, equity and student outcomes coordinator of Allegany County Public Schools, is working with teachers to engage students to submit their work to the contest. “Students participating in this essay contest are participating in an event that is vital to the community’s history as well as crafting a piece of writing that can serve the student in many ways during their college application process,” Welsh said.
The committee views the EJI community remembrance projects as an opportunity to critically think about applying the past to the present. While remembering the past can be painful, it is essential to ensure that it is not repeated. The projects provide a constructive space to do that.