October 18th, 1933

Two Thousand Whites Brutally Lynch George Armwood in Maryland

On October 18, 1933, a mob of at least 2000 white residents of Princess Anne, Maryland beat, hanged, dragged, and burned George Armwood. Armwood had been accused of assaulting an 80-year-old woman who was also the mother of local policeman, William Denson. Shortly after being jailed, Armwood was dragged out of the jail, where an 18-year-old boy immediately cut off his ear with a butcher knife. He was then beaten nearly to death by the crowd and dragged to a tree where he was hanged. After the hanging, he was cut down and dragged through the streets before being hanged again, then publicly burned. The New Journal and Guide reported that “[m]en, women and children, participated in the savage orgy.”

Armwood’s lynching sparked a national outcry and calls for prosecution of the lynchers, yet investigations at the county, state and federal level faced obstacles and delays. Inquiries following the lynching were marked by residents’ refusal to identify participants as well as mockery and intimidation of black witnesses. The American Civil Liberties Union, frustrated with the silence, began offering $1000 reward to people willing to name leaders of the mob.

Even when finally presented with identifying evidence, the county prosecutor refused to act. W. Preston Lane, the Maryland attorney general, ordered troops to arrest eight named participants, sparking riots by whites who supported the lynchers. Four white men were ultimately tried for the lynching of George Armwood, and ultimately acquitted by all-white juries.