The Color Line Murders
February 11, 2015 6:46 AM   Subscribe

The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report (pdf) on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research. The authors compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 -- documenting more than 700 additional victims, which places the number of murders more than 20 percent higher than previously reported. "The process is intended... to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." Map.

Additional Coverage
* Guardian: Jim Crow lynchings more widespread than first thought, report concludes
* Atlanta Black Star: New Report Compiles A Devastating Count of Nearly 4,000 Lynchings of Black People in the US, Showing This Form of White Terrorism Had Profound Impact on American History
* The Crime Report: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror’

Statistics
* States covered by the study (number of lynchings shown in parentheses) were
- Alabama (326)
- Arkansas (503)
- Florida (331)
- Georgia (586)
- Kentucky (154)
- Louisiana (540)
- Mississippi (576)
- North Carolina (102)
- South Carolina (164)
- Tennessee (225)
- Texas (376)
- Virginia (76)

* Top 10 counties for lynching:
1. Phillips, AR (243)
2. Caddo, LA (54)
3. Lafourche, LA (50)
4. Tensas, LA (40)
5. Ouachita, LA (35)
6. Orange, FL (34)
7. Bossier, LA (32)
8. Marion, FL (30)
9. Jefferson, AL (29)
10. Dallas, AL (25)

* Per capita—based on the total population—Florida lynched the most blacks between 1880 and 1940.
* Per capita—based on the black population only—Arkansas lynched the most blacks between 1880 and 1940.
* From 1877 through 1950, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, with 586, 576 and 540 lynchings, respectively.
* Not a single white person was convicted of murder by lynching.
* Of all lynchings committed after 1900, 1 percent yielded a criminal conviction of any kind.
* The mythical “scourge of black men raping white women” was—in the public domain—the main reason whites gave for justifying lynching.
* Phillips County, Ark., in the Mississippi River Delta region, ranked No. 1, with 243 lynchings between 1880 and 1940. The next highest count was in Lafourche Parish, La., also in the Delta, with 50 lynchings during the same period.

Additional Links
* America's Black Holocaust Museum page on Lynchings. The Museum was founded by American civil rights activist James Cameron, who was the only known survivor of a lynching. Mr Cameron passed away in 2006
* PBS: The American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till (YouTube). Official site, includes background and teacher's guide.
* PBS: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (YouTube). Official site, includes background and teacher's guide.
posted by zarq (58 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
The title of this post comes from a speech given by Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an African-American journalist and activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s.

Reading List
* Lynching: A National Crime
* Lynch Law in America
* Mob Rule in New Orleans
* Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases
* The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States (1895)
* Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Her Passion for Justice
posted by zarq at 6:52 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]




What the hell was going on in Phillips, AR?

Oh.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:59 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read an article about this on the Atlanta Journal Constitution website yesterday. Then, for some goddamn reason, I clicked on the comments, and the very first one was something like, "Wahhh! White people got lynched too! There was nothing racial about it!" Then I remembered why I only read comments at Metafilter.
posted by dortmunder at 7:00 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Elaine race riot is largely responsible for the high number in Phillips County, Arkansas.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:02 AM on February 11, 2015


Vox: The NYT wrote about lynching by white people without using the word "white"

It's in the photo caption at the top of the article.

Then it's in the first graph of the article. In the second sentence.

And again in the third graph of the article.

And so on.

All in reference to why specific lynchings happened.
posted by zarq at 7:05 AM on February 11, 2015


Why limit it to the southern states?
posted by Floydd at 7:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Rod Dreher had a really thoughtful post about this today--"When ISIS Ran the American South"--tying it into Obama's remarks about "the Crusades" and American Southern lynching last week.
No, the American South (and other parts of America where racial terrorists ran rampant) was never run by fanatical theocrats who used grotesque public murders as a tool of terror. But if you were a black in the years 1877-1950, this was a distinction without much meaningful difference.
posted by resurrexit at 7:09 AM on February 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


zarq: As the Vox article notes:
[A]s critics have pointed out, the only time "white" was used in the article was to describe the women and girls the black men who were lynched were accused of killing or assaulting.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:09 AM on February 11, 2015


Ida B Wells was one of the greats and should be as well known as people like Frederick Douglass or Susan B Anthony.
posted by kmz at 7:10 AM on February 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


[A]s critics have pointed out, the only time "white" was used in the article was to describe the women and girls the black men who were lynched were accused of killing or assaulting.

The article talks about racial violence, racial terrorism, injustice and the slaughter of African Americans, and the systemic terrorizing of the American Black community. No one who reads it with half a dozen working brain cells will come to the conclusion that they're talking about anyone other than white people lynching black people by the thousands.
posted by zarq at 7:11 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]




The article talks about racial violence, racial terrorism, injustice and the slaughter of African Americans, and the systemic terrorizing of the American black community. No one who reads it with half a dozen working brain cells will come to the conclusion that they're talking about anyone other than white people lynching black people by the thousands.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are people here that still quibble with the fact supposedly simple stuff like the idea that the Civil War was about slavery. And as Desmond-Harris notes in the Vox article, there's a problem in the way that historians and journalists talk about terrorism towards African-Americans throughout history (especially in the South) without noting the identity of the terrorists themselves. I think it's a perspective that certainly merits inspection and discussion.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:19 AM on February 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


Why limit it to the southern states?

The report explicitly focuses on "the twelve most active lynching states in America". It's not a coincidence that these are all in the South. The incidence of racially motivated lynchings there look to be an order of magnitude greater or two than the examples you've given.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:24 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


And as Desmond-Harris notes in the Vox article, there's a problem in the way that historians and journalists talk about terrorism towards African-Americans throughout history

I quite sincerely don't think the Times article has that problem. There's no ambiguity. They're not trying to cover up who murdered who. They're clearly not trying to obfuscate the truth. Nor are they attempting to whitewash history for their readers.

The Vox article's title is easily disproven and needlessly sensationalistic. I agree that the biased way historians and journalists have historically spoken and written about terrorism by Caucasians against African Americans is worth discussing. I don't think that Vox article is a great jumping-off point.
posted by zarq at 7:35 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


kmz, the Slate article seems a little light on justification for making that sweeping claim in the headline. Yes, the people who did these things were some variety of Christians; but I don't see widespread evidence for that "religious ritual" aspect other than the Klan's borrowing of details of certain Christian-ish imagery (much like the Masons and other secret societies have done) for their ritual.

This scholarly article--Practicing What They Preach? Lynching and Religion in the American South, 1890 – 1929--expressly focuses on that issue in far greater detail than the Slate piece with the borderline click-baity title. The authors' conclusion on the "religious ritual" issue is, in short, ritual yes, religious ritual no.

Another interesting point (to me, as a Catholic in the American South) is the correlation between which kind of Christian you were and the prevalence of lynching. At footnote 24 they get into some denomination-specific analysis:
In supplementary analyses, we explored the possibility that the local strength of specific denominations – Catholic, Southern Baptist, and Methodist Episcopal Church, South –may have affected the level of racial violence. We find evidence that a larger share of church members who were Catholic may have suppressed the level of racial violence, both in the pooled analyses as well as in all decade-specific analyses except 1890. The strength of the Catholic Church within the local religious economy is highly correlated with the strength of mixed-race religious groups, suggesting that the apparent effect of Catholicism may, in fact, be tied to its policy of racial inclusion. Conversely, we find no evidence that the share of local religious adherents who belonged to the Southern Baptist denomination was linked to the incidence of lynching, and identify a significant, positive effect of the local dominance of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, only in 1900.
Just kind of interesting to me to see a historical correlation with our later epithet of "nigger-lover" : / for white Catholics here in the South.
posted by resurrexit at 7:36 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This report is an amazing and critical piece of work. The violence and horror of recent US history has been ignored, untaught, unexamined, discounted for long enough. I do think discussions of it should be explicit that violence against black Americans was an expression of a belief in white supremacy. Explicit mention, for one, will stop making it easier for people to ignore the US's explicitly racist history and for two, help get rid of the unexamined assumption that the readership is white. We talk about how defaults in narratives are white men because only the non-white, non-men are identified by their non-white, non-men attributes. In failing to discuss the white overhwelmingly male characteristics of the lynch mobs, we perpetuate the notion of White Male as default and the rest as Other.

Also, ICYMI: EJI is the organization Serena Williams' return to the Indian Wells tournament will benefit (She's holding a fan raffle to stand with her at the tournament). [recent post on Williams relevant comment]
posted by crush-onastick at 7:38 AM on February 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


Where can you find the raw data itself (as opposed to summaries of the data)? I'm interested in what detailed information is available for each crime, such as the victim's name, the number of victims, the number of offenders, any demographic information, any date information, and so forth. Does anyone know if the EJI will be distributing the data itself?
posted by scunning at 7:52 AM on February 11, 2015


"Wahhh! White people got lynched too! There was nothing racial about it!"

(please read this whole comment before you reply.)

Here's the thing: White people *did* get lynched, too. The last confirmed lynching in California in 1933 (!) was the lynching of two white men. Mob mentality is fucking scary, and if anyone who doesn't think it is still very much with us today, is an idiot.

One should also note that Hispanics were also lynched disproportionately in Gold Rush California.

But to say there was nothing racial about the lynching of African-Americans, especially in the former Confederate states, is willful blindness and denialism of the worst kind. We, too, were burning people alive not that long ago, and we need to remember that.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:59 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Props to Mr. Dreher and The American Conservative. But you might not want to read the comments on that piece.
posted by emjaybee at 7:59 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


resurrexit: Not surprised. The KKK was also a major anti-Catholic organization in the 1920s.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:01 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why limit it to the southern states?

The report explicitly focuses on "the twelve most active lynching states in America". It's not a coincidence that these are all in the South. The incidence of racially motivated lynchings there look to be an order of magnitude greater or two than the examples you've given.


Yes, that's no doubt true. However, lynchings and racially-motivated killings happened all over the US, and certainly there are border states that could have been included. When we focus only on the racism in Southern states, we give those outside the South an excuse to blame it just on the South, and overlook the systemic racism that still exists everywhere.

I live in Missouri, about 100 miles from Ferguson, in a college town that is cultured and liberal. However, everyday I pass by the spot where one of the last lynchings in this town occurred. Missouri was a slave state, but does not consider itself part of the South or Southern. It also was a place to which many Southern blacks moved during the Great Migration. It is an extremely racist, segregated state to this day. But because there is little to no focus on this part of our history, it's easy for many Missourians to dismiss and ignore that it happened at all, and for us to say, "Well, that happened in the South. We are not the South."
posted by aabbbiee at 8:02 AM on February 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


Re: the "whites got lynched!" well, yes, and non-Jews were killed in the death camps of WWII, which does not prove that Jews were not still specific targets in overwhelming numbers, sheesh.

It is one of the defining characteristics of mob violence and terror that it's never just the "targeted" group that gets hurt; there are always accidental victims, "collaborators" who refuse to go along and so get killed too, and so on. People intoxicated by violence and unhindered by law don't always stop with their original intended victims.
posted by emjaybee at 8:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


The immediate defensive response to this report from (too) many people - why not mention whites, why only talk about the South, etc. - is depressing. This is an astonishing piece of research, and the decision by (too) many people to deflect attention from what it documents to what they feel it should have documented is exactly why it was needed.
posted by rtha at 8:07 AM on February 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


Floydd: Why limit it to the southern states?

Because the lynching of black people by white people in the South was part and parcel of institutional white supremacy in the Jim Crow era? Black men and boys in the South were lynched for talking to white women--Emmett Till, for instance. Was the North as racist as the South? Probably. Were there racially motivated mob killings in the North? Almost certainly. Was it on anything like the scale of what happened in the states of the old Confederacy and Kentucky? Not at all.

scunning: I'm interested in what detailed information is available for each crime, such as the victim's name, the number of victims, the number of offenders, any demographic information, any date information, and so forth.

Not QUITE what you're looking for, but Emory University has a site on lynchings in Georgia that includes lynchings grouped by county, with demographic information from contemporary censuses and contemporary news reports where available.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:08 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


However, lynchings and racially-motivated killings happened all over the US, and certainly there are border states that could have been included. When we focus only on the racism in Southern states, we give those outside the South an excuse to blame it just on the South, and overlook the systemic racism that still exists everywhere.

Given the amount of work that went into researching and compiling this report -- 'four years [and] thousands of hours' -- there were probably practical considerations preventing a broader scope. Yes, it would be great if they included more states; but if it would have taken another four years to double their coverage, I'd rather have this report now and a second report four years later than have both all at once but nothing at all right now.
posted by cjelli at 8:09 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


entropicamerica, the NPR link in the post has an interview with Bryan Stevenson, executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, and he speaks about the differences between the two:
"We're focusing on lynchings of African-Americans because when whites were lynched it was really more about punishment — it wasn't sent to terrorize the white community, it was intended to actually make the white community feel safe.

The lynching of African-Americans, on the other hand, was really a direct message to the entire African-American community — it was designed to traumatize and terrorize.

...

My thesis is essentially that slavery — the evil of slavery wasn't involuntary servitude. It was this narrative of racial difference, this ideology of white supremacy. And so when reconstruction collapsed, to restore the racial hierarchy you had to use force and violence and intimidation. And in the South that manifested itself with these lynchings.

posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on February 11, 2015 [17 favorites]


It's a problem that we use the same word for racial and non-racial lynching. White people were lynched, yes, and the circumstances often seemed similar: They were accused of a crime that was considered especially onerous and members of the public took it upon themselves to enact an extrajudicial execution.

But it's the details that are important. Whites were often lynched where the was a breakdown of law and order, such as on the frontier, where sometimes it could be months before a judge was available to hear a trial. Whites were lynched as a warning against certain crimes, such as horse thieving. The actual lynching often consisted of a straightforward hanging. Whites were lynched because they were seen as being criminals.

Blacks were lynched in places where there frequently was an effective criminal system, and people could be fairly certain they would be found guilty. Blacks were frequently lynched who had committed no actual crimes, but for violations of racist norms, such as whistling at a white women. Rather than straightforward hangings, the lynching of black people often involved overkill, with the rage of the mob often symbolically acted out on the skin of the victim, who wouldn't simply be hanged, but stabbed, shot, beaten, repeatedly strung up, and often burned. Blacks were lynched because they were black, and their lynchings served as a warning to the black community, rather than the larger community, that there is a racist social order that must be maintained, and breaking those rules carries a death sentence.
posted by maxsparber at 8:13 AM on February 11, 2015 [31 favorites]


We're focusing on lynchings of African-Americans because when whites were lynched it was really more about punishment — it wasn't sent to terrorize the white community, it was intended to actually make the white community feel safe.

That's a succinct way of explaining the difference. Just to be clear, I am not criticizing the omission of the lynching of white people from this study, I am just pointing out that yes, lynchings happened to whites as well. Again, the African American (and other minorities) lynchings were a particularly unique kind of awful.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:21 AM on February 11, 2015


Jesus, 1950? It is really strange to think this barbaric type of crime was taking place within my parents' lifetime.
posted by Hoopo at 8:24 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I stumbled across a tidbit in a newspaper from 1881 that shouldn't have been startling, but was for some reason. "The following list shows the number of persons executed in the United States during the year 1881. The entire number is 89, of which 24 were in the North and 65 in the South, the latter being almost exclusively negroes."

That, of course, doesn't count extra-judicial executions.

The racial disparity that accompanies capital punishment hasn't really changed all that much.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:25 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's a succinct way of explaining the difference.

It is.

Circling back to what zombieflanders was saying earlier, it's a distinction that I think the NY Times article should have mentioned.
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on February 11, 2015


Jesus, 1950? It is really strange to think this barbaric type of crime was taking place within my parents' lifetime.

1950 is just the endpoint of this particular research. Lynchings were still common until at least the 60s.
posted by kmz at 8:32 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jesus, 1950? It is really strange to think this barbaric type of crime was taking place within my parents' lifetime.

It's 2015 and barbaric crimes happen all the time. Sadly, nothing strange about it at all.
posted by Fizz at 8:34 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd like to chime in about not limiting things to the South.

I grew up in California, and the narrative I definitely got was "Slavery happened in the South, aren't they evil". When I was a young child, the whole battle over segregation in the South was winding down, and the attitude around me, at least as my young self perceived it, was "Well, aren't those southerners backward!".

... but as far as what might have happened near me, well, there was this vague impression that the Spanish were pretty rotten to the native population, long ago before "we" got there. And, sure, we got lectures about white-versus-black, and white racism, and were reminded that it did at least exist locally. But there was no general admission that there might be race issues beyond black-versus-white, nor that those issues were so bad where I lived. We where where black people came because it was better.

I heard zero, in school or in the larger culture, about the systematic genocidal treatment of those local natives by non-hispanic whites right up into the 20th century, nor about the horrible treatment of Chinese immigrants in California, nor about the ongoing treatment of "mexicans". I didn't even hear about the local "private" segregation that was just barely ending, in restrictive deed covenants and the like, at the time I was hearing people have the vapors over segregation in the South. I thought "Indian wars" happened elsewhere, and I got the impression that California must have been awfully sparsely populated back in the day, because I never saw any signs of any Indians.

I wasn't about to forget about the South. I was white, I went to majority-black schools and I got bullied over white racism against blacks. But I was given no insight into any of the other things people had done to each other, including other things done by white people, often a lot closer to me than things I did hear about.

No, our segration wasn't as bad as the South's, but our genocide was possibly worse and was quite recent. The natives weren't an issue by the time I came along because they were basically all dead. And I do think that it would have been good for me to have a less simple, less comfortable view than "It's all about the South".
posted by Hizonner at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm in the northwest, where blacks were explicitly racially excluded for many decades. During that time there were lynchings and mass killings of Chinese workers. If there had been more blacks, there would have been more lynchings of them as well. It was a national problem, though I understand why the study chose to focus where it did.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Billy Holiday FPP is somewhat related.

.
posted by halifix at 8:48 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Re: the "whites got lynched!" well, yes, and non-Jews were killed in the death camps of WWII, which does not prove that Jews were not still specific targets in overwhelming numbers, sheesh.

Though this creates, to my mind, some of the same problems. So many people think that the Holocaust was strictly about Germans trying to kill Jews, rather than trying to eliminate "undesirables", including homosexuals, leftists, Roma, and many others. And as a result, a parochialism has developed, where "Never again" simply means "Never again will Jews be killed in Germany", rather than "Never again will the state slaughter whole groups."

Similarly, while it's important to see all the data on black people lynched by white people in the American South, any real attempt to prevent this from happening again requires understanding it as part of a larger sort of populism, where the community demanded the right to enforce norms through extrajudicial violence. Otherwise it becomes a historical phenomena.

This is especially important because lynching is so often seen as a dark deed, done in secret by a small group of rednecks. Which it wasn't. As the museum of lynching painfully illustrates, a lynching was a holiday for the white community. As at a medieval execution, people would bring their family to eat lunch on the grass while they watched the victim die. Like the Salem witch trials, lynching is very much bound up in the American tradition of the people taking over the machinery of punishment. It would actually be really valuable to see how often this behavior was seen at the lynchings of Jews, Catholics, and others, or if lynchings of blacks were different.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:06 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Odd that the map and lists omit Wilmington, N.C., which was the site of the Wilmington Race Riots (estimated 15-60 dead) in 1898.
posted by a complicated history at 9:15 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


TFB, there is a difference between noting "this sort of violence happens to many groups" and using that fact to blur/shout down the people who are pointing out the ways it happened to a specific group. The latter is what I think most of us are impatient with.

Just as I know no actual feminists who think it doesn't matter that men get raped too, I would be surprised if those researching this type of lynching didn't care about/connect other types of lynching to it.

It's just that the people who bring those things up are often not trying to broaden the conversation, but to kill it with noise/confusion because it makes them unhappy or angry.

And there is also an argument to be made that it's frustrating to members of a specific group when members of another group keep interrupting their discussion of oppression with "me too!" In other words, black people deserve the right to speak about lynching violence directed against them without having to constantly deal with "But it happened to X group too!" discussions. Because such interruptions often are attempts to silence/distract/shout them down.
posted by emjaybee at 9:18 AM on February 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's 2015 and barbaric crimes happen all the time. Sadly, nothing strange about it at all.

In context, in Canada where I live it is not currently marked by racist mobs murdering people in an effort to terrorize. We are located very close the the USA and share a lot of similarities in culture. I was expressing some surprise that a particular kind of crime that I thought was old history was in fact happening so recently. But I have not studied American history. We do not have a legacy of lynching in Canada. We do indeed have some issues here with various violent crimes and racism as well, in particular with First Nations people. We've also seen, among other things, a couple of anti-Asian race riots on the West coast in the early 1900s where property was destroyed and people threatened, as well as racist immigration laws and exclusion policies. But I am not aware of any particular contemporaneous racist practice here resulting in the deaths of 4000 people at the hands of mobs. Sorry for the confusion, Fizz.
posted by Hoopo at 9:22 AM on February 11, 2015


A lot of what I see in this thread is just more words for #alllivesmatter, which serves to erase the explicit, deliberate emphasis of #blacklivesmatter.
Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation. Lynchings were violent and public events that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. This was not “frontier justice” carried out by a few marginalized vigilantes or extremists. Instead, many African Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens) for bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person. People who participated in lynchings were celebrated and acted with impunity. Not a single white person was convicted of murder for lynching a black person in America during this period.
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on February 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


Just as I know no actual feminists who think it doesn't matter that men get raped too

Which is really the perfect comparison; rape culture is as much a product of patriarchal norms and ideas of women's second class status as lynching in the South was a product of white supremacy and social control of blacks. And the mob aspect of this sort of thing is evident in things like Gamergate and angry MRA response to any woman who speaks up in a public forum on gender issues; the targeting of women with rape threats serves the same purpose as lynching a black man who had consensual sex with a white woman in Mississippi. It's about making an example and warning others to know their place.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 9:28 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It would actually be really valuable to see how often this behavior was seen at the lynchings of Jews, Catholics, and others, or if lynchings of blacks were different.

Jews were rarely lynched in the 1800's and 1900's. The two highest profile cases: Samuel Bierfield, who was lynched in the middle of the night and Leo Frank, who was a special case as he'd been convicted of murder by a court of law. Frank wouldn't be pardoned until 1986, long after his murder.

People who don't feel they will suffer legal retribution for executing someone will sometimes do so in broad daylight. An inquest jury investigated Bierfield's death. Which is probably why he was lynched in the cover of darkness.

And as a result, a parochialism has developed, where "Never again" simply means "Never again will Jews be killed in Germany", rather than "Never again will the state slaughter whole groups."

My understanding as a Jew is that 'Never Again' is generally interpreted by us as we should never allow another Holocaust -- another mass slaughtering of our people. Not, 'never again in Germany.' Nor 'never again by a nation state.'
posted by zarq at 9:31 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Vox: The NYT wrote about lynching by white people without using the word "white"

It wasn't simply "lynching by white people", it was lynching by white men.

* The mythical “scourge of black men raping white women” was—in the public domain—the main reason whites gave for justifying lynching.

This is one of a number of factors that make it reasonable, in my opinion, to see lynching as a peculiarly American manifestation of penis panic.
posted by jamjam at 9:35 AM on February 11, 2015


Hoopo:
But I am not aware of any particular contemporaneous racist practice here resulting in the deaths of 4000 people at the hands of mobs.
Does it have to be a mob? Or can it be a peaceful, orderly, good-governmenty sort of systematic racial abuse resulting in thousands of deaths?

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/provinces-hand-over-aboriginal-death-records-from-residential-school-period-1.1751450

The great thing about humanity is that you can always count on catching it doing something horrible.
posted by Hizonner at 9:37 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It wasn't simply "lynching by white people", it was lynching by white men.
I think it is actually not reasonable to say that this is something that happened solely at the hands of white men. White women were complicit in lynching, even if they generally weren't doing the actual brutalizing.
posted by anthropophagous at 9:40 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was going through some old newspapers and found a headline: "Mob lynches wrong negro." Just everything about that is wrong.
posted by marxchivist at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2015


I grew up in California, and the narrative I definitely got was "Slavery happened in the South, aren't they evil".

There was actually a movement in 1859 to separate Southern California from the rest of the state, and for it to become the "Territory of Colorado." It was fomented in large part by Southern sympathizers who wanted to see slavery established there. The Pico Act of 1859 would have enacted the change. The California Assembly passed it, the governor signed it, and it was sent to Congress for its approval.

Then this little war about slavery broke out and Congress turned out to not be very receptive to the plan, so no-go.

It's an interesting part of California history that is conveniently forgotten.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:32 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't think this post from Bill Moyers yesterday has been linked yet. A devestating account of a lynching in Waco, Texas in 1916.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:46 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does it have to be a mob? Or can it be a peaceful, orderly, good-governmenty sort of systematic racial abuse resulting in thousands of deaths?

Lynching? Yeah it pretty much has to not be an official government action I'm pretty sure. "Good-governmenty" sort of takes away the extra-judicial, regular-citizen-becomes-bloodthirsty-judge-jury-and-executioner part of it and brings up a whole new set of disturbing issues.

Anyways guys, sorry for being surprised at one terrible thing when other terrible things have happened too.
posted by Hoopo at 10:46 AM on February 11, 2015


Hoopo, I quoted your comment because the pessimist in me looks around and sees all kinds of horrible things happening around the world. I get where you are coming from and the context from which you speak. It is certainly not a contest, this atrocity over that one. We can try to learn from that ugly part of history and try to keep it from happening again.
posted by Fizz at 11:06 AM on February 11, 2015


I only read The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson, this past fall, but I highly recommend it to anyone.

1970 is considered to be the end of the Jim Crow South. 1970! Of course we're dealing with the ramifications of that every day now. It's not ancient history. And every part of the U.S. was touched by the Great Migration of black Americans escaping Jim Crow, both before and after that. Entire communities completely changed as a result, and we deal with the fallout of that, too, every day.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The study left out the "Upper South" which, to me anyway, is Ohio, Indiana and Illinois south of US 40.
posted by SteveLaudig at 4:32 PM on February 11, 2015


We do not have a legacy of lynching in Canada.

We didn't need to. We pushed the remnant native populations out of our cities and towns and then sent their children to de facto prison camps for supposed "education". Given a difference of geography and size of population, we could have been lynching too. I'm afraid my view of the capability of humankind for cruelty as a means of social control is pretty bleak these days...
posted by jokeefe at 4:44 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The New York Times Editorial Board: Lynching as Racial Terrorism. Published yesterday.
posted by zarq at 7:06 AM on February 12, 2015


A Black Mississippi Judge's Speech to Three White Murderers
Mississippi soil has been stained with the blood of folk whose names have become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement like Emmett Till, Willie McGee, James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Vernon Dahmer, George W. Lee, Medgar Evers and Mack Charles Parker. But the blood of the lesser-known people like Luther Holbert and his wife, Elmo Curl, Lloyd Clay, John Hartfield, Nelse Patton, Lamar Smith, Clinton Melton, Ben Chester White, Wharlest Jackson and countless others, saturates these 48,434 square miles of Mississippi soil. On June 26, 2011, four days short of his 49th birthday, the blood of James Anderson was added to Mississippi's soil.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:41 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


That is astonishing. Everyone should go read it.
posted by rtha at 6:02 PM on February 13, 2015


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