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"The Silent Shore": Charles Chavis recounts MD's violent, racist past

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Dr. Charles Chavis is a historian of the African American and African Diaspora, specializing in racial violence, Black and Jewish relations, and civil rights activism in the United States. He is an Assistant Professor of History and director of the John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice, and Race at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. (Chavis photo by Ron Aira for GMU/Book Cover courtesy JHUPress)

Tom's guest today is Dr. Charles Chavis, Jr. He’s the author of a new book that places Maryland squarely in the middle of the long and horrific legacy of racial lynching in America.

As Dr. Chavis vividly portrays, lynchings did not only take place in the Deep South, and they were not only a technique of terror employed in the 19th century. Here in Maryland, lynchings were occurring throughout the state into the mid-1930s.

 A Dec. 26, 1911 Baltimore Sun article on the King Johnson lynching, in Brooklyn, MD. (credit MD Lynching Memorial Project)
A Dec. 26, 1911 Sun article on the King Johnson lynching in Brooklyn, MD. (credit MD Lynching Memorial Project)

Dr. Chavis' book is called The Silent Shore: The Lynching of Matthew Williams and the Politics of Racism in the Free State. (The Johns Hopkins University Press)

The author is an associate professor and director of African American Studies at George Mason University. He also directs the John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice and Race at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason. He is the national co-chair of the United States Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Movement and the vice chair of the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Charles Chavis joins us on our digital line from Fredericksburg, Virginia.


Dr. Chavis is the producer of a new documentary short film, Hidden in Full View , directed by Samson Binutu, that tells the story of the Matthew Williams lynching and other themes explored in The Silent Shore.

The 7-minute doc, which is now streaming online and also available for public screenings, is the first in a series that follows the stories of brave local citizens who sought historical truth in their quest for restorative racial justice. The series is a project of the Breathe With Me Revolution and George Mason University.

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