Dr. Charles Chavis (in scripted type)

Dr. Charles Chavis

Professor, Historian, and Peacebuilder

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Charles Chavis, Jr., Ph.D is the Founding Director of the John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice, and Race at George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, where he is also an Assistant Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution and History.

Dr. Chavis is a historian and museum educator whose work focuses on the history of racial violence and civil rights activism and Black and Jewish relations in the American South, and the ways in which the historical understandings of racial violence and civil rights activism can inform current and future approaches to peacebuilding and conflict resolution throughout the world.

graphic of the book The Silent Shore, cracked open slightlyHe is editor of For the Sake of Peace: Africana Perspectives on Racism, Justice, and Peace in America (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

His latest book, The Silent Shore: The Lynching of Matthew Williams and the Politics of Racism in the Free State (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020) was released in January 2022.

Praise for The Silent Shore:

On Dec. 4, 1931, Matthew Williams suffered the fate of so many other Black men in Jim Crow America. A mob, suspecting him of killing his White boss at a factory in Salisbury, Maryland, dragged him from his hospital bed, hanged him from a tree on the courthouse lawn, and set his body on fire. “In lynching Williams, the mob was terrorizing the entire Black community,” Chavis writes in a searing account of the lynching. ...A scholarly history lays bare a horrific example of Depression-era racial terrorism in 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, author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-First Century

Chavis reconstructs the lynching, identifies many of the perpetrators, and explores the code of silence that protected the lynchers from prosecution. Chavis also takes pains to restore the individuality and humanity of Matthew Williams and to document the cultural erasure of Salisbury’s Black community as another aspect of anti-Black violence in Maryland. Joining other scholars, Chavis explains lynching as a device to terrorize and subjugate Black people.... Historians of lynching and racial violence are in debt to Chavis for uncovering the secret Pinkerton reports to the attorney general, which were unprocessed in the Maryland State Archives.


—Maryland Historical Magazine

Chavis, who has discovered period sources that shed new light on the lynching of Matthew Williams ... 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. This book is further enhanced by a number of excellent photographs and other illustrations, as well as some useful charts and maps.

—Claude A. Clegg III, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama

Chavis’s book brings the painful truth of anti-Black violence to light and breaks the silence that, up until now, has surrounded the murder of Matthew Williams. For nearly 90 years, this lynching has haunted the Eastern Shore; now, Chavis’s investigative work helps heal old wounds and opens new ones by revealing Williams’s killers and those who assisted them. The detailed retelling of these fateful events—reconstructed from sources never before used by scholars—is powerful, timely, and devastating.

—Aston Gonzalez, Salisbury University, author of Visualizing Equality: African American Rights and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century

The detailed day-by-day and point-by-point account of the horrific lynching of Matthew Williams is rare, but as the revealed truth, it is necessary— no matter how painful it is to me or the descendants of other individuals involved. Dr. Chavis has done us all a great service, but what is of particular importance is how this case is handled ... will set a precedent for the way other similar cases—the more than 6,000 recorded lynchings in the U.S.—are researched, investigated, and addressed by the justice system.

—Ms. Tracey “Jeannie” Jones, Descendent of Matthew Williams

The Silent Shore is excellent and essential reading. By recovering the tragic story of Matthew Williams, Charles L. Chavis Jr. enriches the history of lynching in America. Deeply researched and brimming with important insights, this book locates the 'free state' of Maryland as a critical site of contestation over race, democracy, and citizenship in ways that continue to reverberate in the age of Black Lives Matter.


—Dr. Peniel E. Joseph, The University of Texas at Austin, author of The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin


“Rabbi Edward L. Israel: The Making of a Progressive Interracialist, 1923–1941,” Southern Jewish History, 21 (Spring, 2019).  View PDF

“Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in Maryland: From Narrative Change to Racial Healing,” Building an Architecture of Peace-building in America, Doug Irvin-Erickson and Emily Sample, eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020). View PDF

Introduction to For the Sake of Peace: Africana Perspectives on Racism, Justice, and Peace in America. Co-edited with Sixte Vigny Nimuraba. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020). View PDF

Activism & Policy Leadership

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Paix Heritage Associates, LLC

Dr. Chavis founded Paix to provide historical research, writing, and strategic consulting to organizations, communities and historic sites

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John Mitchell, Jr. Program at GMU

Dr. Chavis is the Founding Director of the John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice, and Race at George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution

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The Archives for Racial and Cultural Healing

“The ARCH™” seeks to properly acknowledge, memorialize, and be a catalyst to end the false belief In a hierarchy of human value based on race, embracing our common humanity, and permanently eliminating persistent racial inequities.
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The U.S. Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Movement

The US TRHT has been raising support for House Con.Res. 100 introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cultivating bipartisan support for the healing agenda with its nationwide network of actors.



#BREATHEWITHME is a call for a U.S. Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Commission leading to Reparations.

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Hidden in Full View Series

Hidden in Full View tells the true stories of racial terror and oppression hidden in plain sight in an ongoing series of documentary shorts.

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Media Inquiries for The Silent Shore
Please contact Simran Kumar at George Mason University:
Inquiries on For the Sake of Peace

Please contact Dhara Snowden at Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group:

Inquiries for the John Mitchell, Jr. Program

Please contact Gbenga Dasylva at George Mason University:

or visit jmjp.gmu.edu

Inquiries for U.S. Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation

Please contact ustrht@gmail.com