A poem by Gale Rasin on the anniversary of the lynching of James Taylor, a 23-year-old Black man who was hanged from a maple tree by a white mob in Chestertown, Maryland on May 17, 1892.


“Whatever may be said about the provocation, the stigma will rest upon our county for many years.”
— Chestertown Transcript, May 19, 1892

I smother myself in the lemony
intoxication of a magnolia
on the courthouse green in my native town,
its 1860 brick worn with memory.
Once there was a jail next door; we escape
only through our myths and forgetfulness.

May 17, 1892: James Taylor
waited in cell eight for the mob to come.
They is goin’ to kill me I reckon.
His last words — I am an innocent man.
Armed, masked in justice, with a sledgehammer
for the door, the horde seized him: strung him up.

The burden of history is too great
a weight for a young maple and for me.

Published with permission of the author


Here’s my Baltimore Sun column on Justice Day 2022 in Chestertown


  1. When people truly love their country, they have to be willing to look at its flaws honestly. If this is wokeness, then let us be woke, as we would be with a child we love and gently discipline and redirect. Thank you for focusing on the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Dan. My summer reading list this year has been heavy on “Southern Justice” in Maryland and Virginia after the Civil War, so this poem and your editorial really resonated with me. It’s infuriating and terrifying to see these hateful ideas taking seed again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When my children were young, I encouraged them to tell me when they had wronged. The punishment was not as important as the lesson, so it would not be repeated.

    Liked by 1 person

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