In partnership with the Maryland Center for the Book at Maryland Humanities, the Virginia Center for the Book at Virginia Humanities presents Charles L. Chavis, Jr. (The Silent Shore: The Lynching of Matthew Williams and the Politics of Racism in the Free State) as he shares a more complete narrative of a human life taken by lynching in Salisbury, Md., in 1931. Chavis worked from previously undiscovered documents to reconstruct the full story of one of the last lynchings in Maryland, including the politically-driven aftermath which led to the state’s Interracial Commission, a pioneering force in the early civil rights movement.

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This event will offer closed captions and an accompanying live transcript using Zoom’s built-in automatic speech recognition software (ASR). To request live-captioning accommodations, please write no later than seven days before the event. A video recording from this event will be provided soon after completion and an accurate transcript will be available at a later date, at

“… historians need to be salvaging experts, understanding that we must first review the existing story, literature, and research, and then determine what is missing.”

Charles L. Chavis, Jr.

The Silent Shore is a must-read account of the 1931 lynching of a young Black man on a December evening in downtown Salisbury, Maryland… Chavis digs deep, finding documents never before seen publicly, to present a rich and revealing story of how lynchings were planned and executed, and of the conspiracy of silence among white people in the region that shrouded the perpetrators of lynching from accountability. The story resonates with power and caution for our contemporary efforts to address racial violence and discrimination.” —Sherrilyn Ifill, president/director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., author of On The Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-First Century

“Chavis, who has discovered period sources that shed new light on the lynching of Matthew Williams—a Black man who was killed by a mob in Salisbury, Maryland, in 1931—brings the sensibilities of both a scholar and a history detective to bear in scrutinizing the ins and outs of an often complicated story and narrative arc.” —Claude A. Clegg III, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama

Community Partners

We appreciate the support of our community partners for helping share information about this event: The History of Lynching in Virginia Work Group, the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission; John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice, & Race, Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University; The Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia project, Department of Justice Studies, James Madison University.


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