posts 1 - 15 of 27
Boston, US
Posts: 205


Equal Justice Initiative report on lynching (see details below)

Video viewing:

Uprooted, a short film created by the Equal Justice Initiative, [6:44]

You’ve seen some horrific images today. It’s difficult to imagine a society where such images were commonplace and were used as postcard images to be sent to friends.

If you are interested in looking at the archive of lynching photographs, assembled as part of the exhibition (and accompanying book) Without Sanctuary: Photographs and Postcards of Lynching in America that toured American museums in 2000, you may spend some time visiting this site: warning: these photographs, like the ones we saw in class, are highly disturbing. And at the end of the day, what I hope you will focus on is not the tortured bodies of the victims but on the facial and body language that suggest the attitudes and behaviors of the bystanders/perpetrators.

You also saw the faces of the onlookers, the writings of the witnesses sending “mementos” to their friends and families. Try to imagine what was inside the heads of these people. Note: there were men, women, and children present at many of these lynchings.

There were folks who objected to lynchings and who tried to do something about it. Click here for an example of Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s crusading journalism and her steadfast advocacy that something had to be done to stop these lynchings. That same document contains Eleanor Roosevelt’s response and her description of FDR’s suggestion as to what to do about it. You heard Billie Holiday’s vocalizing the lyrics of Abel Meeropol’s song, Strange Fruit.

There were efforts to outlaw lynchings. Believe it or not, in the US Congress, Senators Kamala Harris (then D-California), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) introduced the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act in June 2018. (Yes, you read that date correctly.) That legislation passed the Senate in December 2018 but the bill died because it was not passed by the House before its session ended in January 2019. To revive the bill in the next Congress, Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) introduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (HR 35) on January 3, 2019. The House of Representatives passed the bill on February 26, 2020. (Yes, you read that date correctly too.)

However, the law has not passed the Senate and therefore has not been enacted, thanks to Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who blocked the bill contending that someone could receive a 10-year sentence for … “minor bruising.” So Congress failed to pass an anti-lynching act.

The person who has done more than anyone else in this nation to shine a spotlight on the need to confront and reckon with this horrific history is attorney Bryan Stevenson, whose book you might have read this summer (Just Mercy) or who was the focus of a recent movie based on the book (same title, Just Mercy). His Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) built a memorial—called the National Memorial to Peace and Justice—in Montgomery, Alabama that has preserved the stories and memorialized the victims of lynchings nationwide. His organization issued a report on lynching that I’d like you to read for this assignment. It’s long, so I’m asking you to take on portions of it, rather than the entire text.

The report is linked here.

  1. Everyone should read the introduction and its key findings.
  2. Then each of you should do the following:

Read 1 of the 3 sections from this list (each section is marked by a red header):

  • Option 1: Read section II “Back to Brutality: Restoring Racial Hierarchy through Terror and Violence”
  • Option 2: Read section III: Lynching in America: From ‘Popular Justice’ to Racial Terror”
  • Option 3: Read section IV: Enabling an Era of Lynching: Retreat, Resistance, and Refuge

AND Read 1 of the 2 from this list (again each section is marked by a red header):

  • Option 1: Read section V: Confronting Lynching
  • Option 2: Read section VI: Trauma and Legacy of Lynching

And after you’ve done that, you will have a deeper understanding of this terrible history. And now it’s your turn. You are to post on the following:

  1. What was the message behind these lynchings? What do they tell you about white supremacy, the creation of a climate of fear, the issue of whether everyone in this country could count on and/or be protected by the judicial system and law enforcement?

  1. What, constructively, could have been done to address and to stop the act of lynching in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Remember that lynching did not end until the 1960s. One could argue that it has continued well into the 1990s in the cases of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas (who was attached by a chain to the back of a pickup truck and dragged for miles until his body disintegrated and he died—see, and Matthew Shepard (hog-tied to a fence in sub-zero temperatures) in Laramie, Wyoming (you may remember our school’s production of The Laramie Project and for more info, .

  1. Imagine if you were alive and living in communities where lynchings took place. What would you have done, assuming your goal was to end lynching? What would you have done about it back at the time? What would you do about it now?

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Facing Lynching

Looking at the lynching photographs that exist today is immensely disturbing and difficult. I think to myself how mortified I would be to witness a public lynching if I happened to be alive at the time. But as the photographs show, this was not the case for the swarm of white onlookers. Nobody there was mortified; they were happy, joyful, celebratory. It’s extremely disheartening that publicly murdering black people was something whites cherished through photographs and postcards they would share with family and friends. And to this day, Congress hasn’t passed an anti-lynching act.

The message behind these lynchings was clear--white people wanted to maintain their racial control by, as Stevenson puts it, “victimizing the entire African American community.” Lynching never had to do with isolated incidents involving an alleged perpetrator for a crime (in many cases, victims were lynched without being accused of any crimes). It was a tool to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. Especially in the Southern states, where lynchings were common between 1877 and 1955, white people made it clear that as long as slavery was illegal, black and white people would not live together. Lynching was such a present threat for black people that it drove many families out of those Southern states. Six million African Americans moved out of the rural south urban areas in northern states during the Great Depression. In simpler terms, the message behind these lynchings was that the white race was superior and as long as African Americans were no longer enslaved, they were no longer wanted. And it worked at the time.

The judicial system and law enforcement obviously played a huge role in this because there was no accountability for the lynchings. The fact that lynching black people was allowed contributed heavily to the urgency that black people felt to leave. Southern states even passed their own anti-lynching laws to demonstrate that federal legislation was unnecessary, but then refused to enforce them. The dominant political narrative argued that the formerly enslaved did not need specialized legal protection now that they were citizens and blamed lynching on the victims, claiming it was an appropriate response to “black men raping white women.” There was a growing fear of interracial sex because of the threat it posed to white supremacy.

The connection of lynching to the judicial system and law enforcement continued on, as the most important reason lynching declined is because it was replaced with capital punishment. The solution in response to mob lynchings at the time seemed to be to carry out public hangings to deter mob lynchings, which also served to satisfy those mobs.

A lot could have been done to address and stop lynchings in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. So little was actually done that it seems like anything at all could have helped. Above all, those involved in the lynchings should have been punished. It would have helped to have federal anti-lynching legislation, because by passing their own, Southern states were able to ignore it as they wished. In the case of horrifyingly recent lynchings such as James Byrd or Matthew Shepherd, hate-crime legislation should have been passed and existing laws should have been broadened. It blows my mind that even right after something like this happens, people oppose such laws by claiming that nobody should have “special rights.” This argument ties back to the earlier 1900s as well, where people argued anti-lynching laws would extend unfair special protection to those most likely to get lynched. Lastly, more people organizing and addressing lynchings explicitly like the NAACP had would have helped.

If I was alive at the time and living in those communities where lynchings took place, I would have joined or tried to create an organization speaking out against lynching and supporting anti-lynching legislation. For example, the NAACP was so effective because although much of its board at the beginning was white men, by making lynching a primary focus, black support soared. I think if I had the ability at the time, I would have tried to help more black people escape to the north from such a dangerous setting. I would have tried to stop public lynchings while they were happening. For lynchings going on today, I would do much of the same and I think it would be more effective with the resources we have to communicate to the public today.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Fear Maintained Through Lynchings

The decades of lynching in our country’s history is something that will forever haunt the history of our country, despite our hesitance to confront it. These deadly lynchings were used as public gatherings to remind Black individuals of the powerlessness that they held in comparison to white individuals including those who committed these acts of terror. It is one of the most disturbing parts of our history, yet there is still little justice for victims of lynchings.

These lynchings were meant to promote messages of white supremacy and to maintain the racial hierarchy that was already prevalent through Jim Crow laws. Lynchings were a constant reminder of the racial hierarchy and were designed to strike fear into Black people at the time. Often these lynchings had no connection to any crime, and were used to create a climate of fear after someone had committed some sort of violation of the social customs at the time, such as speaking to a white person. Occasionally mobs would act on accusations of a crime, using allegations as an excuse for horrific racial violence and causing lynchings to frequently be defended by the public and by the media.

Clearly this was also a failure on the behalf of the Judicial system and law enforcement, as they were quick to uphold laws of segregation yet when Black people were brutally murdered they did nothing to intervene and stop the violent white mobs who came after victims. They enforced laws against even minor crimes when it came to Black individuals, but racial violence such as lynchings went unpunished when done by mobs of angry white individuals and used as a public event. This too promoted the racial hierarchy, as it was no secret that to the Judicial system and law enforcement Black lives were not worth as much as white lives.

The lynchings could and should have been prevented by law enforcement and the judicial system at a local and federal level, but unfortunately that was not the case. Instead of passing federal legislation that would prohibit lynching, some Southern states passed anti-lynching laws which were rarely enforced. Local laws simply were not enough especially since many politicians and members of law enforcement either supported or were present at these lynchings, but federal legislation could have at least made some of a change. If those present at lynchings or participating in lynchings were punished, they would have hopefully been less publicly accepted.

Lynchings also should have been addressed in the media and depicted as the horrific crimes that they were. Although Black activists and organizations frequently petitioned for legislation and education on lynching, it also needed to be addressed by white news sources, activists, politicians, etc, as white people were the ones acting as bystanders or often perpetrators.

If I was living in a community where lynchings took place I would have allied with Black communities and organizations to push for legislation and education against lynching and to reach out to elected officials about lynchings. If this were to happen now I would do the same, as well as use platforms such as social media to inform others about lynching. I also think that right now it is important that an anti-lynching bill is passed, establishing a nationwide standard for how horrifying and unacceptable lynchings are.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Taking Accountability

Through observing the timeline and legacy of lynching, it surprised me to realize that the particular political and social zeitgeist never fully dissipated. While reading the EJI Report on lynching, I was able to draw grim parallels between lynching and today’s criminal justice system. It definitely made me rethink my initial support of capital punishment; I had never put two and two together—the demographics, the practices, or the rationale. But now I realize how disturbing it is that today’s practices are still deeply rooted in the same ones we deny having existed in the first place. Us Americans hate confronting our racist past, such that we are unable to learn from these mistakes. Thus, it makes a lot of sense that “the criminal justice system remains the institution in American life least impacted by the civil rights movement.”

The message behind lynchings was coined as a way to deter Blacks from committing crimes, but in reality, were a way of imposing white supremacy and displaying it to the public. Without using these scare tactics, Blacks as a whole could potentially garner enough momentum to challenge the preconceived Black/White power dynamic. @Earl Grey Tea explained it well, “Lynching never had to do with isolated incidents involving an alleged perpetrator for a crime... It was a tool to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation.” Hearing about the petty crimes that Blacks were arrested for, such as allegedly sending insulting letters to a white woman (Uprooted video), shows that White people jumped upon every opportunity to kill or incarcerate Black people.

In terms of the judicial system and law enforcement, they were complicit and exacerbating this racist climate. For one, John Knox, Alabama lawyer, stated, ““Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this state.”...“[I]f we would have white supremacy...we must establish it by law—not by force or fraud.” Therefore, it is clear that the Southern political climate was heavily skewed toward the legal imposition of white supremacy: if there was a way to make Blacks feel politically and socially inferior, they would do it. Not to mention, the growing popularity of convict leasing made it easier to tolerate the patterned concept of slavery and white supremacist ideals. Convict leasing would incite the mass incarceration of Blacks, further suppressing their positions in society, and legitimize excessive retribution/abuse against people of color. In this way, laws served as reminders to Blacks that no matter how rich or educated they may be, they would never be better than any White person out there.

Today, the criminal justice system is still heavily skewed against the Black population: “African Americans make up less than 13 percent of the nation’s population, but nearly 42 percent of those currently on death row in America are Black.” How is this fair? I am not well-versed in the crimes that people on death row have committed, but I know that the numbers should not be nearly 50% Black. We are still suppressing Black people by exerting excess force and imposing harsher sentences than White people, as we had done before. But it’s sickening how we justify modern-day lynching, capital punishment, as a large step away from the photos we had observed during class. Why were Americans so readily excited to lynch Black people? And why are we still so quick to do it now?

There wasn't much that the people could have been done to directly halt lynchings in the 19th/20th Centuries without the government's help. Nevertheless, more action could be taken to support the Black community as a whole. Many chose to join hands with organizations to champion the equality between Blacks and Whites. Activists protested racial segregation and disenfranchisement through “boycotts, sit-ins, voter registration drives, and mass marches,” but doing so was never an easy feat. There would always be opposition from Whites and law enforcement that deterred activists from protesting: “700 Black children protesting racial segregation in the city were arrested, blasted with fire hoses, clubbed by police, and attacked by police dogs [in Birmingham, Alabama].” Because these practices were insufficient to fully combat lynchings, there would need to have been further legislation and support from the government. Although lynchings did not end until the 1960’s, some law enforcement officials were white supremacists at heart, which shone through in their opposition to protestors, participation in the KKK, and overall impartiality. Today, we still struggle to outlaw lynching, as seen within the dissipation of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act and the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. There needs to be more accountability within legislation to formally address and condemn the practice of lynching.

Because of the constant fear of opposition and, perhaps, being attacked/lynched by mobs myself (like civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Shwerner), it is hard to say that I would have readily advocated against lynching out in public during the 19th/20th centuries. I suppose that means that white supremacists’ scare tactics would have worked on me, but it’s scary to willingly put yourself within a minority position. I would love to say that I would have joined hands with activist organizations, protested out on the streets, aided voter registration, and so forth, but there would always be a risk and looming fear that I, too, could be lynched. It’s hard to determine what I would have done back then; I would hate seeing innocent human beings being discriminated against and facing systemic oppression, but when considering my personal risk, there is a big chance that I would have ended up folding under the pressure and forcing myself to stay silent. I hate admitting that, but I suppose I will never truly know.

Lynching isn’t necessarily happening in my community today, but we do live in a country that partakes in capital punishment, which shares the same roots. Because of this, something that we could do today is advocate against the death penalty. It is important that we educate ourselves on the subject (which I hadn’t fully done before this assignment), and denounce the racial implications and biases rooted within the practice. We can’t do anything to change the past, but we can protest against future deaths from capital punishment. I have seen many people sign petitions and spread awareness across social media pertaining to inmates on death row. I think that is a good start, but this would be a good opportunity to also join activist organizations and participate in protests.

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Lynching of the Past

Looking back at the past terrorism black men, women, and children had to go through, it deeply worries me to comprehend the fear African Americans had to go through even to the present. The decades of lynching that went on targeting many African Americans shows that white supremacy had been deeply rooted in our nations history, and the photos showing the white onlookers happy and joyful experiencing the lynching just help to prove that white people in our nation's past just saw African Americans as animals. And to make things worse, Congress to the present still hasn't passed an anti-lynching act yet.

The clarity of the white supremacists' message couldn't have been any clearer with all of the lynching, and that was that the white people were never going to allow black people to be equal to them. Usually the lynching never involved a crime on the black person's part, and in many instances, white supremacists used the lynching as something to enforces segregation and Jim Crow laws. To help enforce this message, many white supremacists joined together in groups to create these terror groups that would lynch black families, and one example of a group was the Ku Klux Klan. Likely the biggest out of all the anti black groups, the Ku Klux Klan established in 1865 was in every southern state by 1870. Unfortunately for many black families, they were forced to flee southern cities as it was too dangerous in the mid 1800s to remain and risk being lynched.

The judicial system had essentially no accountability for the lynchings from the late 1800s to as late as the 1960s, and because of this, much could've been done to help prevent the lynchings. For one, the government could have passed serious laws that lynching was a serious federal crime and could involve serving long term jailtime. Another thing the government could've done was to have a curfew at sunset and violators would be punished with serious crimes. Establishing laws like the ones listed could've easily prevented many deaths of African Americans, but due to the agreement of more than half the country at the time with the hate of black people, even thinking about establishing serious laws like these were likely impossible.

If I were living in the communities where lynchings took place, the first thing I would do would be to ally with the black communities to try and reach out to government officials and try to educate them on the lynching. However if I were dealing with the same situation now, I would likely do the same but over social media as it is a huge platform where I could receive many followers on the topic.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

Lynching in America

Lynchings in America will forever hold a deeper message. Rather than an execution, lynchings had become social events to showcase white supremacy in America. Looking at images taken from lynchings demonstrate the racial divide of the country. White Americans gathered around to watch black Americans be murdered in broad daylight. Lynchings were used as a show of force against black Americans, the power held by white people was unmatched and unchecked by the country's judicial system. The power of white supremacsits was able to extend into the courtroom and turned what was supposed to be fair trials into legalized lynching of black americans.

Acts to end lynching in the late nineteenth and twentith centuries should have happened federally and locally. The country and individual states should have used their justice system to punish those doing the lyching in order to prevent more from happening. Passing legislation is a good start but alone it could never be enough. Laws are constantly being broken and bent, even more so if they were never truly enforced. America should have taken more concrete steps in order to end lynching, passing a law against it was only surface level.

If I was living in a community where lynchings took place I would have taken steps to change the way society treated lynchings. Based on photographs from lynchings it is clear that they were so normalized in society that people came to believe lynching was normal too. By showcasing how horrific and cruel lyching truly is maybe the community would be able to see the error in their actions and make a change. Publicly denouncing lynchings in the media could lead more people to question what they are doing and force them to make a change for the better. I think that if lynching had never been so normalized and accepted by society oppistion torwards lynching would have grown much sooner and much faster.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

Confronting the History of Lynchings in America

Lynchings were used in order to instill fear in Black Americans. Throughout America’s history, white people have consistently done anything and everything they could to make sure black americans didn’t have power. Lynching was amoung a number of fear tactics used to reinforce the racial hierarchy in America. In order to uphold white supremacy after the Civil War, many states, especially in the South, created their own rules that basically took away from any progress made by Reconstruction laws. These laws and policies included black voter suppression and convict leasing, both of which criminalized black people and basically made slavery legal again. After this, Jim Crow laws “served as a constant symbol of their inferior position in Southern society.”, according to section II of Lynching in America.

Lynching was a violent oppression of black americans, it created a culture that made it okay, that somehow lynching was justified to white people in America. In section V of Lynching in America it says that “Perhaps the most important reason that lynching declined is that it was replaced by a more palatable form of violence.”282. Even after lynching subsides, the action of killing black people for the sake of keeping them powerless and in the minority, gets carried over into the criminal justice system directly through capital punishment. The persistent action of killing, torturing, and belittling black people in america shows how values of white supremacy are built into our system.

To address and stop the act of lynching in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there should have been some kind of federal intervention. It is seen many times that local police and people in power did nothing to stop lynchings, with actions such as letting people out the back door of a jail with a violent mob waiting, or moving public executions up just to please the white crowd, they clearly were part of the problem. I think that higher action was needed in order to stop these lynchings. Being against so many laws, you would think that people would face repercussions, but that didn’t seem to be the case. I think that strict and explicit laws needed to be put in place so that there was so room for such horrible things to happen.

If I was alive and living in a community where lynchings took place, I would be joining with groups who fought against these lynchings and I would do my best to encourage other people to join. I would have made an effort to get more coverage that denounces lynchings and talks about the terrible truth of them, in hopes that it would be recognized by more people and there would be a larger effort against it. I think if this were to be an issue now, social media coverage would again highlight the horrors of lynching and with more awareness comes more traction in an effort to end lynchings.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Not So Easy As ''1, 2, 3..''

As we could all see through the images and their descriptions, lynchings were heavily pervasive during previous years of American history. They increased the anxiety of the Black community because Black people could be lynched for anything. On the other hand, the White population reveled in these killings. Lynching to them was bull fighting to Spainards. It's crazy that we have trigger warnings for reading about these issues, while people back then saw bad things happening right in front of their eyes and took the equivalent of selfies.

Obviously I condemn the actions of the people there, but unfortunately, holding up a sign that read ''Black Lives Matter,'' wasn't so simple back then. Lynching wasn't just a Black person's fate; it was used to solve White problems involving cattle as well. In other words, mob rule was the law of the South, and no one was exempt from it. This is why MLK said, ''Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'' By tolerating/celebrating the murders of Black people in broad daylight, White people also put themselves in danger.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The History of American Lynchings

Atrocities committed in the name of white supremacy are not necessarily new, but people tend to forget the severity of the treatment of Black Americans in our history and even today. Lynchings serve as a reminder of the oppressive systems that once existed to subordinated Black people. These public acts of torture operated as a means of entertainment to white Americans, and was even categorized as “a civic duty of white Southern men”. Ninety nine percent of the perpetrators of these lynchings went unpunished, yet the psychological torment for Black Americans persisted for several generations. These frequent killings instilled a well of suspicion towards Black people, and in turn, normalized the mannerisms and cautiousness exhibited around white people. This shows us that white supremacy benefited off of the fear and inferiority of minorities through institutionalized racism. The cultivated fear from these lynchings ultimately coerced Black Americans to flee west and north, and rendered them powerless if they were to be in opposition to the white citizens. This is one of many instances where the justice system had failed to protect Black people.

The passing of the Amnesty Act reversed the penalties imposed on Confederates and allowed for them to hold office despite spewing racist rhetoric. If only federal observers had listened to Congressman Jefferson Long’s warning on the dangers of returning power to the perpetrators, perhaps a number of the lynchings could have been prevented. These white men were able to regain control over southern governments and intertwine racist ideals with institutions, even openly proposing the establishment of a racial regime. The withdrawal of Southern troops that at the time, were one of the few protective structures for Black people, resulted in a rush of violence that forced Black Americans into a position of social and economic inferiority. The passing of the Amnesty Act led to methods of legalized segregation through things like creating provisions that restricted voting rights, and promoting the prohibition of interracial marriage, all of which contributed to the disenfranchisement of Black Americans. If there had been proper condemnation for these lynchings by any public official, perhaps it would’ve stopped the trend before it continued.

If I was living in a community where lynchings took place, I would have probably tried my best to condemn the acts if it was safe to do so. I would’ve joined campaigns or organizations that fought against lynchings. If none existed, I would’ve attempted to create my own campaign and find others to join me in speaking out against the injustices. In terms of today, I would probably do something similar to spread awareness through social media. Sharing raw photos of historical lynchings might also be effective in garnering traction and support for the cause.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

Lynching Across America

These lynchings were meant to signify Black insignificance, this was a display by many in the White community that Black people mean nothing to them at all. As mentioned in the research article as well many acts of lynchings came with impunity and this also sent a message that the government didn’t care very much about their black community either. In the beginning of the section “Back to Brutality” we learn that the government had allowed things such as amnesty for confederates in the south as well choosing not to discipline Georgia for their violent and corrupt acts, and things like this gave even more power to lynchings. As I mentioned before, this attitude of impunity towards white criminals and anti blackness had allowed white supremacy to flourish while sending a message to the general public that the black community was not cared about or protected by the government; this paved a way for lynchings to become more prevalent and powerful, because the governmental silence had spoken loudly. This had not only sent the message that lynchings were not only ignored, but maybe that they were supported, and that lynching black men and women was a patriotic thing to do. This supported the rise of white supremacist groups like the KKK which to this day exist and are glorified by some Americans.

In terms of what could have been done to limit or stop lynchings in the late 19th century to mid 20th century, I feel like that is really difficult to say. Governmental presences from the black community was extremely difficult to fathom and leaders like John Knox were making it their mission to ensure that white supremacy wasn’t just cultural, but that it was also legislative. I feel as though one thing that could have been done was an attempt to preserve and continue southern reconstruction. Southern reconstruction was stopped in the Compromise of 1877, which allowed for a republican candidate to become president, had the southern reconstruction continued, or been revitalized in some way, lynchings and other acts as such may have been diminished, however that would all begin with the government acting. Living in community where lynchings had taken place, I feel like there would be very little I could do, as a Black American during this time, I too would also have a target on my back, because lynchings weren’t reserved for criminals, they were reserved for anyone in the black community. The only thing I feel could be done is attempt to become a government official. As I mentioned before they were extremely difficult to come by but they were not impossible to come by, because I feel as though the only real change that could happen at this time couldn’t happen through MLK marches or boycotts, but they would have to happen judicially. Punitive action like jail time, and condemning white supremacist organizations is the only real way to stop lynching.

Boston, Massachusettes, US
Posts: 16

Was it Possible to Stop?

While I believe some lynchings had no intended message, and ended up just being in the moment murders, some lynchings that had a much deeper message were organized events, with photographers hired and a massive crowd being gathered. The main message that was intended by the white people who planned the lynchings was that of absolute white supremacy. They were used to show how much power white people had over black people and when looking at how pretty much all of these lynchings ended up being completely legalized, it was clear how easily the white people present could show their absolute power. The other message is the cycle of fear brought about from misunderstandings. The most common argument that people gave in favor of these lynchings is that of fear of the black person, and that rings true, even today. The white lynchers would argue that they were afraid of what the black people would do and that they were a danger to white people's lives, when, in reality, the black people had more to fear. That was the other part. To impart fear upon the black community to keep them below white people.

I have a hard time believing it was even possible to stop the lynchings at that point in time. There was already a long history of lynchings in our country, and the precedent had been set long ago. However, when looking at the theoretical, the best way to stop lynchings at that time was to make sure that law enforcement followed through and maintained the law. The best way to counteract the precedent for lynching was to set a new precedent; one that severely punished those who took part in lynchings. However, based on how normalized lynchings were at the time, being on postcards and such, I have a hard time believing that would've ever been able to happen at that time in history.

When looking at the mass of people present at those lynchings, how normalized they were, and how common they were, I honestly doubt I could've even come close to changing anything. I think the best way for me to have gone about it was find law enforcement that would've stopped the lynchings and punished those at fault. It would've been very hard to do, but if I was able to do that, it could set a precedent that shows people what can happen if they take part in a lynching. I would do the same thing now, but also, i would attempt to find people with my same views and who would be willing to speak out against lynchings. The more people against a topic, the less legitimate it becomes.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Acknowledging our history

These lynchings were merely ways to display white supremacy and another means of control over communities of color, black Americans in particular. They were used to instill fear within African Americans, as they were attacked on account of their mere race. In section V of the EJI report on lynching, Stevenson said that “white mobs justified lynching as a preemptive strike against the threat of Black violent crime.” Black men were falsely painted as rapists and a danger to society, which in turn justified the violence they faced at the hands of white men. This creation of a climate of fear further alienated African Americans from a country that supposedly established equal rights for all. The supposed protection they were supposed to receive by the judicial system and law enforcement simply did not exist. The perpetrators of these lynchings ran free and unpunished. Instead, these killings were treated as celebrations with postcards and families traveling together to witness the spectacle. Overall, through lynchings white people were able to maintain their power and further the narrative of racial superiority.

In order to address and to stop the act of lynching in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we could start with actually holding the perpetrators for lynching accountable. If they faced legal repercussions for their actions, others would start thinking about the consequences of their deeds and lessen the amount of lynchings. This is merely a starting point though, as it won’t completely eliminate the act, as lynchings were mainly fueled by racism. And so, its frequency would just be lowered if legal consequences were implemented. We should also stop silencing black voices and dispel the stereotype that African Americans are a danger and threat to society and those around them. That belief was the main justification for lynchings so by dispelling this false narrative, it takes away the reasoning behind these heinous acts. Honest conversations should also be held about the truth of racial terror during that time so that people during this period aren’t so keen to feed into a system of white supremacy with white people regarded as superior over everybody else.

If I were alive and living in communities where lynchings took place, it’s a bit hard to believe that my own efforts would result in much change yet I’d be willing to try my best to make an impact. Back then, I would have started a campaign or joined one that would fight against these lynching policies and voice my opposition to the act. I could also try gathering accounts from victims and publish that collection in order to truly expose the racism and violence that fueled these lynchings. Now, I would use the web to the best of my advantage. It is the network that connects everyone nowadays so I would be able to educate those about the history of lynchings and get their support in order to truly make change.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Lynching is a violent way to uphold white supremacy and uphold the idea of everlasting fear within black Americans. It is used to physically show the control that white supremacists think that they have over black Americans. Many people talk about lynching in the past tense, saying how it was a horrible thing, how it was meant to silence black people, as if lynching ended decades ago. Not even a month after the murder of George Floyd, four black men were found hanging from trees in the span of less than three weeks. All of their deaths were thought to be suicides, but many are criticizing the speed at which they were ruled and instead want them to be called what they are: lynchings. This just goes to show the injustices that black people are faced with by law enforcement, even beyond the grave. Lynchings are still alive today, but we will never truly know the extent of it because of how they may be swept under the rug by the judicial system and law enforcement.

In all honesty I don’t really think too much could have been done to stop lynching completely in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but I definitely think there were ways to lower the numbers. Lynching was illegal by law, but obviously that didn’t stop many because it was never truly enforced. If it were more heavily enforced by police officers and if the punishment were severe enough, I believe less people would have been involved. However, many police officers were involved with lynchings so it would be unrealistic to think that they would’ve done anything to stop them. Nationwide, I think the North could have done more to stop regular lynchings. They could have drawn more attention to what was happening in the South and spread awareness, making it more likely that more people would be against it nationwide.

If I were alive in the South during the times when lynchings were practically a daily occurrence, I would try to get Northerners to help in any way that they could. I am almost positive that my voice would be silenced with violence if I tried to speak against lynching in the South, so I would write as many letters and articles for the North as I could, asking for nationwide awareness and maybe even a movement. Until the movement became big enough to be known in every household, I would do my best to record acts of lynching and federally report them, as I know that local police officers wouldn’t do anything as they are most likely involved in the lynchings. But because today everything is much easier to make publicized, I would use the internet to spread awareness at speeds incomparable to the 20th century.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Reason for Lynching

Lynchings were used to uphold white supremacy and induce fear on Black Americans. Although lynching in the early nineteenth century was used as revenge and justice, it later became a form of deadly toture and mostly racially motivated. The images of lynching truly show how horrifying lynchings were and how people were completely fine with them.

Lynchings were not just to punish perpetrators of crime but to send a message to the rest of the black community. Black people were lynched for “non-criminal violations of social customs or racial expectations” and even resisting mistreatment. The lynchings were a form of control and a way for white Americans to maintain their social status.

When it came to the judicial system and law enforcement, they did not do anything to stop the lynchings. Oftentimes lynchings target Black people accused of a crime who were then found not guilty or not given a harsh enough punishment. Law enforcements did nothing to protect them and even freely let them go out into a group of mobs. People that attended public lynchings knew that they would not be held accountable for the act. Without fear of punishment, lynchers were free to continue using violence as a way to control others.

In the late nineteenth and twentieth century, there needed to be laws passed that addressed and ban lynching. The federal and state governments needed to take action to ensure that lynchings are banned and punished in every part of the country. Without laws that specifically punish people who lynch, they would not be afraid to continue doing so.

If I was alive and living in the communities, I would be openly speaking out against lynchings and work with the families of the victims. I would also run for office to make changes on the government level or get elected officials to pass laws that address lynching. Although I might not be elected, it would still bring awareness to the issue. Today, I would spread awareness of the issues of lynching and tell the stories of the victims.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

What Would Have Been Different If There Was Accountability?

Lynchings were done with the intention of keeping African Americans in fear and preventing them from gaining power and respect. White supremacists would do everything they could to keep their racial control. They “used lynching to enforce a post-slavery system of racial dominance,” (Lynching in America IV). They used fear as a tool and accused African Americans of crimes and social transgressions in an attempt to justify their actions.

White Southerners saw themselves as vigilantes. They characterized themselves as “ordinary and respectable people, animated by a self-righteousness that justified their atrocities in the name of maintaining the social and racial order from which all white people benefitted,” (Lynching In America VI).

The judicial system and law enforcement did little to nothing to prevent lynchings and other forms of racial terrorism. It was not uncommon for African Americans to be abducted from jail or court and then murdered. In 1903, a Black man was taken from a county jail and then shot him to death on the lawn of the county courthouse in the center square of the town. Similar events happened repeatedly. A Black man would either be released after being found innocent and the officials would not interfere as a mob abducted him, or a mob would take a Black person from a jail or courthouse and execute them. Black people could not count on the judicial system or law enforcement. This is not an issue of the past, lynchings and executions have happened much more recently than many think.

In 1964, police in Mississippi “facilitated the extrajudicial murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner in 1964 by delivering the men to a white mob after detaining them for an alleged traffic violation. A mob of Ku Klux Klansmen, who had gathered during the several hours the three young men were held in jail, was ready and waiting to seize and murder them upon release. Just as lynchings had been justified in the preceding decades, these violent incidents were defended as necessary to maintain ‘law and order,”’ (Lynching In America V). The people responsible for these acts of terror were almost never held accountable and many of the allies fighting for African American rights were threatened and terrorized.

In addition, many politicians openly supported lynchings and other acts of racial terror, “President Theodore Roosevelt declared that ‘the greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration, especially by Black men, of the hideous crime of rape.’” Not only did he not oppose lynching, he blamed Black people.

To address and to stop the act of lynching in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the people responsible for crimes of racial terror should have been held accountable. By allowing their actions to go unpunished and even supporting them in some cases, you are sending the message that the lives of Black people are not valued and you are allowing them to be portrayed as criminals and threats, all while the real criminals are characterizing themselves as vigilantes.

If I was alive in the communities where the lynchings took place, I would like to say that I would have done everything in my power to fight for justice and support their efforts, but I would have also been afraid of white supremacists. It was not uncommon for civil rights workers and allies, such as Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner,

to also be attacked. While I would have been afraid, I know that I would have been horrified by the crimes of White supremacists. I am confident that feeling would have overpowered my fear and that I would have joined organizations and movements in support of African American rights. Speaking out now against injustices is not as difficult as I think it was then. Now I can attend protests and try to educate others and myself more. I also think that it is important to pressure politicians to finally pass an anti-lynching act.

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