September 16, 2021

‘Unwritten Law: A Symposium on the Lynchings in Rockville’ Webinar to be Presented on Saturday, Sept. 25

The webinar “Unwritten Law: A Symposium on Lynchings in Rockville” will be presented from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25, as Montgomery History, the Montgomery County Lynching Memorial Project and the Montgomery County Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission join together to create a Remembrance Weekend.

The Remembrance Weekend on Sept. 25 and Sunday, Sept. 26, will recognize two men who were the victims of racial terror lynchings in Montgomery County: John Diggs-Dorsey, who was killed in 1880, and Sidney Randolph, who was killed in 1896.

Symposium speakers will include historians Ralph Buglass, Sarah Hedlund and Tony Cohen.

The historical analysis will provide background on the economic, social and political context of Montgomery County in the final decades of the 19th Century and explore how elements of the murders were replicated in other parts of Maryland and the United States.

The symposium will include the following sections:
  • Part 1: Retrospective on Race in Post-Civil War Montgomery County. Local historian Ralph Buglass sets the stage by putting into context the County’s racial climate at the time of the lynchings. In the decades after the Civil War, the Black population lived in an increasingly segregated society.
  • Part 2: Two Rockville Lynchings: The Truth Uncovered. Archivist and researcher Sarah Hedlund narrates the history of the two lynchings that occurred in Rockville: John Diggs-Dorsey in 1880 and Sidney Randolph in 1896, based on a careful reading of hundreds of newspaper reports and supplemented with genealogical research, detailed maps, photographs, and archival documents. 
  • Part 3: Anatomy of a Lynching. Led by Tony Cohen, the section will explore the racist mob killings of three black men in 19th century Montgomery County and exposes the motives and methodologies used to commit these crimes against humanity. 
To register for the webinar, go to

Included in the weekend will be the Remembrance Pilgrimage Walk from noon-3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26. Beginning at the site of the old County jail where Mr. Diggs-Dorsey and Mr. Randolph were both held, the walk will pass locations that were then central to a vibrant African-American community, including the sites where the men were lynched.

After the walk, from 4-5:30 p.m., Montgomery History will host the “Soil Collection Ceremony.” The ceremony will honor the memories of Mr. Diggs-Dorsey and Mr. Randolph with a soil collection and music. It also will have reflections by community leaders and by a representative of the Equal Justice Initiative from Montgomery, Ala.

More information on Remembrance Weekend can be found at