On a sunny day in August, a man was walking through the old black community of Baltimore, Maryland, when he noticed a familiar sight: A plaque.
“The plaque is for a woman,” he said.
“It says, ‘There was a woman named Mary Ann Smith, who died at the age of 18 in Baltimore.'”
The plaque, in honor of a black woman who died in Baltimore at the hands of the KKK in the late 1920s and early 1930s, was put there by a local business owner.
It was a reminder that, even decades after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the KKK still exists, and the city’s most infamous chapter still holds sway.
The plaque in question is a plaque of the woman who was executed for treason by the KKK.
It reads: “The woman who is now known as Mary Ann Johnson, a member of the Black Woman’s Club was arrested in Baltimore on December 13, 1931.
She was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging on January 5, 1932.”
But the plaque, and a small plaque in a nearby room, has also served as a way for a group of Baltimoreans to mark the anniversary of Mary Ann’s death, to commemorate the death of her family, and to commemorate her legacy.
On August 11, 2015, Baltimore’s black community celebrated the 20th anniversary of the execution of Mary Jane Johnson by the Ku Klux Klan, a time when the KKK had a large presence in Baltimore and across the nation.
The plaque in the Baltimore cemetery is a reminder of that history, which also included the execution and enslavement of the first black people to be executed in the US, the murder of a fellow prisoner and the burning of a church.
“It’s a time for celebration and remembrance and it’s a good time for us to commemorate Mary Ann and her legacy,” says Mark Stiles, who was part of the commemoration group.
“And that’s what this plaque is.”
Stiles says it’s important to note that there was another KKK execution in Baltimore in the same year that Mary Ann was executed.
The Klan executed six black men between 1924 and 1930, and it is believed that Mary Jane was one of the six.
Stiles says the KKK’s “history” is still alive in Baltimore, even if it has been erased from the city.
“We don’t know who was the person who shot and killed her,” Stiles tells The Verge.
“But we do know that she was executed.”
When it comes to the KKK, there are many who say that Mary Anne was no longer a threat.
“They didn’t need her in that building, they just wanted to make sure that she didn’t come back to harm anybody,” Stains says.
“She was not a threat to anybody, she was a threat only to herself.”
Stays’ group of Black Lives Matter Baltimore members gathered to mark her execution and to celebrate the anniversary.
“I don’t think she would’ve died in prison,” says Stiles.
“That’s not her story.
She didn’t kill anybody, but she wasn’t a threat.”
But, Stiles adds, “Mary Anne Johnson is a part of our history.
She has been part of that.”
The Baltimore chapter of Black History Books, which was founded in the 1970s, is one of many that has been celebrating Mary Ann.
In the past five years, it has hosted a series of events, including the “Black Lives Matter Celebration” in June.
And in August the group will hold a public event to mark “Mary Ann’s Memorial Day” on September 6, the anniversary on which she was born.
“Mary Ann was a member for as long as there have been black people in America,” says Alisha Walker, a founding member of Black Loves Black History.
“When you look at her history, she wasn