posts 1 - 15 of 28
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?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

Lynching in the Past and Present

Ultimately, lynchings were a way to enforce white supremacy, and to strike terror into African Americans so that they would not try to enact positive change in their communities. Often, successful Black people were targeted by mobs to send the message that there was no escaping the subordination imposed by Jim Crow. Ultimately, Black Americans continued to fight for their rights and become successful despite all the obstacles they faced, but the culture of fear created by these lynchings drove 6 million African Americans out of the South between 1910 and 1970. This included the family of Thomas Miles, Sr, who was lynched in Shreveport, Alabama for allegedly passing notes to a white woman. His wife fled to California with her son, and his family did not return to the South for over a hundred years due to fears that they still would not be safe in such a place. However, perhaps the most significant legacy of these lynchings today is their effect on the judicial system. In the South, law enforcement regularly allowed the lynchings to occur, sometimes even releasing untried prisoners directly into the hands of the mobs. Later, when other regions of the United States began to harshly criticize the lynchings, the judicial system essentially just made the lynchings legal. Because their top priority was still to pacify white supremacist mobs, they routinely gave Black people, Black men in particular, the death penalty for crimes even when evidence was flimsy at best. They allowed these executions to be carried out in public to satisfy town populations’ desire for lynchings to continue in some form. To this day, in the South someone is four times more likely to receive the death penalty for killing a white person than for killing a Black person, and 42% of death row inmates are Black, despite the fact that only 13% of the United States population is Black.

If politicians cared, it would not have been too difficult to stop these lynchings from happening. Thanks to the work of journalists such as Ida B. Wells, who chronicled and crusaded tirelessly against lynching, the government was well aware of what was going on in the South. If Reconstruction had been allowed to continue, power would have been kept out of the hands of white supremacists, and the presence of federal troops would have led to intervention in these lynchings, if the United States government had instructed them to do so. By writing off this terror-based violence that claimed thousands of lives as a part of the old-fashioned, backwards South, the national government essentially condoned the lynchings, by refusing to take relatively minor steps to save the lives lost in over 4,000 lynchings.

As an individual, it would have been almost impossible to stop lynching from happening. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to see mobs of thousands of people gather to watch people be executed at their own hands. Similarly, the governments in these states were elected by members of these mobs, and had no interest in putting a stop to lynchings. As an individual, I feel the best that could be done would be to thoroughly document these executions, and try to appeal the federal government. If I could, I would record the names of those who murdered African Americans without a trial, so that at some future date, when the national government decided to intervene, they could be held accountable. Now, it is easier to spread news about these lynchings. By taking videos of these events, the perpetrators can be identified and held accountable, and hopefully many more will think twice before perpetuating this terrible violence on others. Although many people now, police officers in particular, can face almost no repercussions for their actions even with video evidence, I hope that in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, murderers such as Derek Chauvin, whose trial is in a few weeks, will be held fully responsible for the irreversible harm they have caused.

Chestnuthill, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Lynching and the lack of change

These horrible lynchings have been messages of white supremacy and power for years. With little consequences for their actions, white people were able to install fear into black people in the United States of America, causing millions to move from the South. Often, successful black people were the target of these lynchings, as to show an example to others that they can not escape their low position in society. But the revolting responses of the judicial system regarding these lynches brings up the issue of the system being able to work for black people and if they can count on it. After the lack of protection by law enforcement and the judicial system, specifically regarding lynching, it would be difficult to say that they could be counted on by black people.

There has not been much done regarding stopping and addressing lynching, specifically when they were still at a height. The lynchings continued on until the 1960’s, but there were cases in the 1990’s, as well as some possible lynchings in 2020. Laws could have been in place earlier to criminalize lynching, just as the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act states. If this law was set in place in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there would have been fewer lynchings. Of course, it is impossible to know if police were involved with the lynchings and if they reported them correctly and such, so the enforcement of this law would not have always been definite. Considering the South’s reaction to the law regarding desegregation, their reaction to an antilynching law, a law that would prevent them to tortue and murdur black people, could have been similar.

Seeing as cases of lynchings seemed to have been done by members of the KKK, criminalizing the racist group could also have addressed and prevented lynching. If I had been living in these communities, I would fight for the criminalization of the KKK, as well as protest for protection for black people. What I would have done back them might not make too much of an impact if there aren’t people who stand for the same things as me, but if something were to be done to push for the ciminlization of the KKK and the implacement of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, many would be behind the movement. Staging protests and having people who believe in ending the terrors for black people in America run for different positions in the government could also push for positive change.

Charlestown, MA, US
Posts: 18

Lynching in America

Lynching is a horrendous act that is never talked about in America. It is unfortunate how an integral part of our history is never touched upon and is being ignored in some curriculums across the country. This is the result of the constant oppression of African Americans in our society to force them to submit to the White man’s words. The message that lynching sends is a constant reminder that the White race is, and will always be, superior. They (Whites) laugh and point at the lifeless black body that they just ruthlessly took away for reasons of “maintaining law and order” (Section V). Their reasons for hanging a person from a tree are unjustifiable and unforgivable. White supremacy encourages Whites to believe that they are superior and that they were simply lynching as a form of protection, instead of murder. The creation of fear inflicts psychological warfare in African Americans to continue believing that their lives will never matter and that they would never surmount to being equal to the poorest Whites. This is still seen in our society today where White supremacists pride themselves on telling minorities to “go back to where they came from” because America is “their'' land. Furthermore, this ideology has brought countless African Americans to be terrorized wherever they went and that law enforcements do nothing when it comes to protecting citizens of color. The judicial system, which we all praise to be lawful and fair, is untrustworthy when it comes to crimes dealing with a White victim and a minority. As stated in the article, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964, a signature legal achievement of the civil rights movement, contains provisions designed to eliminate discrimination in voting, education, and employment, but it does not address discrimination in criminal justice”(Section V). It is terrifying to know that your case might never get the justice it deserves, only because you are a minority, even after constant efforts from the civil rights act to achieve equality. We have seen this happen one too many times. It is embarrassing for us as a country, to continue proclaiming that “all men are created equal” if we are not holding ourselves to that standard.

I often ask myself the question, “Was there a way to avoid lynching in general?” This is a question I would probably never get an answer to and that says a lot about our country when it comes to acknowledging our failed past. If I was to answer this question myself, I would say that if Reconstruction continued, I am positive that white power would have been put to an end by the African American politicians who were brave enough to step up and fight for their rights. Unfortunately, this was not the case and President Hayes was the reason for this. He wanted to secure a win for his presidential election and this lead to “an era of second slavery”(Section II). In addition, I believe that if there were more politicians or other influential figures at the time supporting African Americans, then the victims of these lynches would have the opportunity to live the life that they deserved.

If I was alive and living where the lynches took place, while also advocating to end these murders, I would be terrified for my life because it would probably be short-lived. However, in the time that I am alive, I would still try to fight the fear and publicly condemn these murders as much as I can. That being said, I would try and communicate with the victims’ families and see if I can come up with a way for others to remember their names. I now understand the importance of letting others know your story and how a simple name would resonate with thousands and change their perspectives on an issue. Nevertheless, I am sure that I would be trying my best to survive during that time, in addition to hopefully retelling the victims’ stories to future generations. After reading the article, I noticed that Civil Rights activists recieved death threats, mobs, and even bombings at their own homes for supporting what they believed in. As an individual hopeful for change, I realized that stopping these mobs would have been a pipe dream. These lynches and mobs would have never stopped if they were not publicly shamed to by others across the country. One voice withstanding the loud shrills of these murderers would be impossible. Furthermore, in today’s society, now that I am more informed about lynching and how the American judicial system has failed us far too many times, I will spread awareness on how death sentences are disproportionately given to African Americans and that lynches were one of the factors that led to this result. In addition, I will start advocating for schools to start teaching more diverse studies on how these unjust attempts to oppress African Americans have been occurring for more than 4 centuries. It is essential that future generations learn more about the experiences and the disparities that Black Americans face while living in America, and to read textbooks written by different authors to examine all viewpoints when analyzing an event in history.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

The History of Racism in America

Lynchings were a common thing in the South from around 1870-1950. Over 4000 black Americans were lynched in that period of about 80 years. There were many reasons for these lynchings, yet none of them were anywhere near excusable. For example, the Equal Justice Initiative, run by Bryan Stevenson, had released a short documentary about a family going back to where their ancestor was lynched. He was lunched for allegedly passing a note to a white woman. Another example, in EJI’s report, was how a black man and a white woman were arrested for talking to each other. The reasons for lynchings were as small as looking at someone of another race, yet were widely supported and treated the same way sporting events were treated.

Something that would have been able to stop the act of lynching would have been action on the government’s and the police’s part. Instead of condoning the actions of white people, they should be arresting and creating laws around segregation and discrimination. Everyone knew that “separate but equal” and the court case Plessy v Ferguson was, and pardon my French here, complete BS. It was used as a justification, when in reality it just promoted further racial discrimination. The government, and more people like Senator Sumner who passed a civil rights bill in 1975, should have done something. I think the worst thing, that shouldn't have happened, was when the South was granted amnesty. The worst thing was when former Confederates were put back in power like nothing had happened.

If I was present in that time, the best thing I could have done was I guess to study to become a lawyer, that way I would be able to force change. But, like in To Kill a Mockingbird, it would be generally opposed and supposedly abruptly put to an end. This isn’t something that just one person could change, and you’d have to have more people. If it was now, it is much easier for one person to make a difference, and things could actually be changed. Supporting organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the Equal Justice Initiative is one way someone could help.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Lynching is Not Just History

No matter which way you look at it, the message behind these lynchings was to uphold white supremacy and maintain fear within the black community. This horrendous act was done to make sure that white people could continue to hold power over black people, a “ vicious tool of racial control” as the EJI report describes. Lynching actively worked to have white people set a twisted example, “a terrorizing symbol of power”. It terrorized whole black communities, not just for one “wrongdoer”, but for what they saw as an entire group of such and “were designed for broad impact… to drive African Americans from the community altogether. Based off the images we have digested in class, it is clearly evident that the spectacle of a lynching also worked to normalize the act, almost desensitize its grotesqueness for its white audience. This was an act that people would send on postcards, a trophy for what happened. These messages truly showcased the mindset of many white minds at the time, one that was consuming the stereotypes of black people, mainly black men, as hyper-sexual and dangerous. The distributions of these cards further sustained these racist notions and the vast attendance at lynchings highlights the fears within white society that black people could ever be seen as equal or in positions of power.

Despite the laws that were passed to ban lynching, they were never enforced. No enforcement nulls any change that could have been made. Time and time again, cases were brought to the judicial court, and found anything but justice. Like @broskiii said, these court cases displayed favor for white victims over black victims and throughout the course of history, more often than not what we expect our ever just judicial court to do is almost always the opposite: minority cases are never met with the same seriousness or legitimacy as white cases. If anyone can make an educated decision on whether or not the justice system can be counted on it is only those in social power: white people. It is apparent that marginalized groups in our society cannot always be protected and offered the same security that law enforcement should provide in this country.

When looking at the nineteenth and twentieth century lynchings, the easy way of addressing this issue is to push for stronger enforcement and stronger bills to eradicate it. However, even though the Civil Rights Movement and others like it pushed for this, they never saw their ultimate goal achieve fruition due to the obstacles of racial injustice standing in their way. The only plausible solution I can see for this is for people in power to stand up as well. If they have all the power in this society it would make sense for them to push for these bills, these laws, these enforcements, and make the government listen. If the CRM had more people in power to back them, there would have to be more substantial change. This takes me back to the idea of bystanders and why they are so crucial to both the aid of people in trouble, but are sadly also so crucial to their stagnant progress.

If I were alive during these times, I would do whatever I could in my power to support movements that sought to end lynching. Educating myself on the intricacies of law to outplay the judicial court that they would not be able to loop hole themselves out of delivering justice would also be another route I would take. Supporting organizations and movements of today such as Black Lives Matter, supporting black activists, businesses, and artists would be a way I would go about it in today’s time. Lastly, I think ultimately just raising awareness is something that everyone should do because there is strength in numbers, if enough people can continue to get behind this issue, there would be nowhere else for white supremacy to run. Despite this may sound like an optimistic approach now, I believe that the long term solution that would take generations would be to teach this material in schools all over the country, make it a law to have it be part of the curriculum This is not something that should be glossed over in a small section of a textbook.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

The heinous act that is lynching

According to Section II of the Equal Justice Initiative Report, lynching was once used as a way to get revenge against criminals such as theives and swindlers. They were not meant to be an act that would target a specific group of people based on their race, and they weren’t meant to kill people. However, as the Civil War came to a close, and the promise of greater freedoms be granted to former slaves was on the rise, lynchings took on the more darker meaning as we know it today. It became associated with hanging people, and many would use it as a way to spark fear in the eyes of many black people living in the United States. It was used as a tool to keep a black person from ever being on equal standing with white people. As mentioned in the short film “Uprooted,” a black person could be targeted by a white mob simply for living a financially stable life. Given the lack of response from law enforcement, as well as the fact that not much was done to punish those who committed such heinous acts, these lynching continued well into the 1960s. To this day, there are still no laws enacted that ban such a practice.

White Supremacy, as well as all other forms of evil, can only survive as long as the masses remain uninformed, or rather misinformed, about what is going on. If black people are led to believe that no punishments will be given to those who partake in acts of lynching, they’ll be less likely to do anything about it. Back in the 19th and 20th century, many calls should have been made to arrest those who take part in these acts of terrorism. Children of all races should have been educated in school as to how evil lynching is and why the practice should be banned. Education is a powerful tool that can effectively combat misinformation, which is why those in power try their hardest to control as much of it as possible. If people are educated on the subject matter, many more people would call out those in positions of power for not doing enough to stop them.

If I were alive back then, assuming that I would have the power to do this, I would try and organize large crowds of people to protest the lynchings. I would try to organize events that would gather national attention. I would urge people to continue fighting even if it looks as though all hope is lost. The enemy feeds on our hopelessness and we must show that we are not willing to give in. I would urge people across the country to vote out those who refuse to do anything about the lynchings, and I would work towards electing those who are willing to take swift action against it. If this was during the Cold War, I would likely create some sort of slogan that brings up the hypocrisy of America promising freedom across the globe while rejecting freedom to its own citizens. If this were to happen today, I would try to plan events all across the globe to protest the matter of lynching. While technology has given the government greater power than any administration has ever seen before, there is still strength in number, and I would help people realize that they still have a lot more power than they realize.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 28

Lynching and How Black Americans were Wronged by the Government

Lynching was definitely not just to execute a “suspect” of some crime, it was so much more than that. Lynching was meant to silence, demean, and instill fear into Black Americans in the South. Black Americans were taught not to step out of line because they would be lynched for it. For example, in Trauma and the Legacy of Lynchings this story is told, “She describes a white judge’s recollection of his Black playmate’s deferential behavior days after a lynching in their community; when the young Black child encountered his five- or six-year-old white playmate, he quickly stepped off the sidewalk as his fearful mother had instructed him to do. Black survivors most strictly observed racial boundaries in the aftermath of a lynching.” White supremacy during that time was reigning supreme because they unfortuneatly had the power to do what they wanted. Laws somehow didn’t apply to white people then. For example, in the short film Uprooted, the watcher is told of a story of a man who was proven innocent for a crime he didn’t commit so when he left through the back door of the courthouse, a white mob attacked and lynched him. The words guilty and innocent didn’t apply to white supremacy, if you were black you were guilty. These articles and video both blantantly tell the reader that during that time Black Americans could never count on the judical system and law enforcement. The police never stopped lynchings and the courts never convicted the white mobs that were lynching people. “Lynching underscored the “cheapness of Black life [and] reflected in turn the degree to which so many whites by the early twentieth century had come to think of Black men and women as inherently and permanently inferior, as less than human, as little more than animals.”’, Trauma and the Legacy of Lynching.

I believe a lot could’ve been done to stop lynching during the 19th and 20th centuries. The North basically turned it’s back on the matter once it got worn down by Southerners. In Back to Brutality it is said that, “Executive action also waned during this time, as Southern racial violence became an increasingly divisive issue and politically-weakened President Grant became more reluctant to intervene.” So basically after a while Grant felt he had to place to stop white supremacists in the South. If Grant had address the horrendous lynching going on in the South, the North could’ve been exposed to the matter a lot earlier and it could’ve been stopped a lot earlier. Northerners could be more aware of what was going on in the South and call for a change. Then when Reconstruction ended no one was fighting for Black Americans in the South. “In the words of Henry Adams, a Black man living in Louisiana at the time,

“The whole South—every state in the South—had got into the hands of the very men that held us as slaves.”’, said in Back to Brutality. A lot could’ve been done in the beginning but since those things didn’t happen, it was like a domino effect and legislature and legislature was made to hurt Black Americans.

If I were living during that time I would call for help from the Northerners who aren’t aware of these awful and vicious lynchings. I would try to start a movement in the North first because a lot more people would be in support of it in the North and then move down to the South. This movement would call upon the government to make laws against the segregation and disenfranchisment of Black Americans. We would work through the government to make sure everyone who told part in a lynching would be held accountable and would face jail time and much as any murder would. Like PineappleMan30 said, “Instead of condoning the actions of white people, they should be arresting and creating laws around segregation and discrimination.” Now I would make sure all families and people harshly affected by lynchings would be recognized because they deserve to be heard unlike how their wronged family members were. I also would make sure to recognize all the sites of lynchings because people still need to see the dark parts of history even if we don’t want to. I was appalled by the fact that in Marianna, Florida, the citizens celebrate their Confederate leaders on the same spot where people were lynched. That should not be tolerated anymore in America. No one should be praised for their flagrant racism.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Lynchings are about subjugating African Americans

To me, it is clear that the message behind these lynchings was that African Americans should accept the idea that they are somehow less than white people and that they should be afraid. There was no logic or reason behind any of these lynchings. There is no way that brutally murdering someone for daring only to talk to a person of a different race is meant to spread anything other than hopelessness and terror. In the incident @Wyverary brings up, Thomas Miles, Sr. was lynched for allegedly passing notes to a white woman. There is no world in which death is a reasonable punishment for that, if a punishment is even reasonable at all. This proves that lynchings were never about justice, and it tells me that white supremacists cared about little else than subjugating African Americans simply for their own amusement. Incidents such as that one also provide insight into the judicial system and law enforcement. As is evident from that example, law enforcement could not be counted on to protect African Americans and ensure that they receive justice. Quite the opposite took place; in many cases, law enforcement officers were the people who turned over innocent African Americans to violent mobs. In the 20th century, when the South changed their laws to allow for public hangings as an effort to “reduce lynchings,” the judicial system became the perpetrators. There was a comic shown in the report that depicted a judge sitting on a podium with a door labeled “White” on his left and “Colored” on his right. The door on the left led to a jail cell, whereas the door on the right led to an electric chair. This further demonstrates how the justice system could not be trusted to protect everyone in the country, but rather only white people.

As for what could’ve been done to address and stop the act of lynching in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I agree with @PineapleMan30 in that government action could’ve been effective. When people in power have the mindset that racial equality is an impossibility and people should just accept it, lynchings will continue to run rampant. When you have a person like the former Confederate General James L. Kemper, who was elected Governor of Virginia in 1874, say, “Let it be understood of all, that the political equality of the races is settled, and the social equality of the races is a settled impossibility,” no progress will ever be made. But if those politicians had enacted laws that protected African Americans, it is a possibility that some lynchings could’ve been prevented. However, given the role that law enforcement played in abetting lynchings, there is no guarantee that the laws would’ve been 100% effective. In order to achieve that, some government body not made up of Southerners should’ve been put in charge of ensuring that whatever laws were created were actually enforced.

If I were alive and living in communities where lynchings took place, like @Hector_Zeroni says, I would try to organize protests. The easiest way to force politicians to act would be to threaten their reelection. If we could show the people in charge that a majority of voters did not support lynchings and that the politician might not be reelected if they don’t do something to fight back, the politician would most definitely work to change things. That motivation would also ensure that the politician would work to enforce the laws they pass. Nowadays, I would employ social media campaigns to help raise awareness. Getting people all across the country to call their lawmakers and tell them how they feel about lynching would encourage those politicians to work with the politicians in my area to get laws passed nationally that prohibit lynching.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Acknowledging America’s past

Lynching, like many other dark and horrific part of American history, is a taboo subject in the United States. It represents white supremacy and the dehumanization of an entire race due to xenophobia and racism. Through the education system and society, fear towards people of color is created and instilled in people using false narratives and stereotypes of African Americans. Everyone should be protected by the judicial system and law enforcement. Unfortunately, that is not the case in America back then and also in present days. The founders didn’t create constitution with black people in their minds as slavery was still prevalent back then. Majority if not all 4,000 cases of the lynching had occurred when there were no evidence to prove that the victims were guilty of what they were accused of. White supremacists targets successful black people such as business owner Thomas Miles Sr. from the film “Lynching in America: Uprooted” because they want to prevent them from moving up the social ladder. The law enforcement were bystanders and oppressors as they watched and partakes in the lynching. Today, Racial profiling and police brutality are evidence that discrimination has been deeply rooted in our institutions.

In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, lynching could be addressed and stopped if the politicians actively create policies and acts to recognize lynching as a horrifying issue and punish the people who continues to support or partake in it. Although “Black activists protesting racial segregation and disenfranchisement through boycotts, sit-ins, voter registration drives, and mass marches consistently faced physical attacks, riots, and bombings from whites” (Section V), nonviolent protests are helpful in shining lights on issues such as lynching. It is important for the government and for the people to acknowledge lynching as a crime rather than moving on and leaving it in the past.

If I was living in communities where lynching took place, I would appeal to the senators and representatives to advocate for the rights of black people. I would also document the stories behind the victims and the perspectives of their families. Knowing someone’s life story is really powerful as it humanizes them and I believe that it can help erase the stigma and fear towards people of color. I hope that people in the communities can sympathize with the victims and stop lynching. Now, I will continue to support movements such as Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, and also advocate for change by voting for people that will work to end racism in the government. I think it is also important to bring up the dark parts of American history and shine light on issues such as lynching so that the future generations know the full story of America’s past.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Presumption of Guilt

According to the Oxford dictionary, white supremacy is “ the belief that white people constitute a superior race and therefore should dominate society”. I often ask myself, how can one race be measured as better than another. How could we possibly measure what it means for an entire population of people to be better? And then how does race have anything to do with it? Race is something that we have created as a society and simply has to do with similarities between physical and social appearances. And by this definition, there is no way for one “race” to be more successful than another.

What drove, and continues to drive this notion of white supremacy is greed. Money is the driving force behind everything and strengthens greed. Throughout history, white people have felt “threatened” (felt they might earn less or be replaced) by any group of people, who have simply started to economically better themselves or earn money. This leads them to incite fear among the groups of people who are climbing the socioeconomic ladder. The most notable groups of people we have talked about in class are Black people and the Asian population. This fear is ensured in every aspect of society. In the legal system, the education system, and the medical system. The only people who could truly count on society to take care of them were white people. Everyone else was treated unjustly.

Today, we are specifically looking at the lynchings of black people. In the film Uprooted, we witnessed a family who lost one of their ancestors to a lynching. Thomas Miles was accused of passing notes to a white woman. It was stated by the court that he was lynched because of this. But, the real reason is that he owned a business, and a home and was making a decent life for himself and his family. He was bettering himself. And for this he was lynched. White men wanted to ensure that anyone of a different race knew that they could not become better than they were, and had to live as the inferiors forever. 4084 terror lynchings were reported by the Equal Justice Initiative. That is 800 more than previously reported by the courts. See the thing is “ very few white people were convicted for murder or lynching a black person in America during this time”. This has made it difficult to get a real number on the amount of lynchings.

So much could have been changed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to stop lynchings. For one congress could have passed anti - lynching laws and acts. The EJI states in part 4 “ Congress repeatedley failed to muster enough votes to pass any of the anti-lynching statues propoed”. I believe this is something that should make an exception for voting. It should simply be passed because it is the lives of people. In no way did lynching mean you would live. This was a direct pass for white people to kill black people and get away with it. And on top of this people simply advocating for change, and an end to this.

I think the most important thing we can do now is make it known that this happened in our country and not too long ago. One step we can take to ensure this is creating monuments and memorials in the places that it happened. As the family of Thomas Miles stated “it is not the same as if you see it or feel it”. You can not truly understand what happened until you can step into that moment and see/feel it. And even then for many of us we won’t know the depth of the problem because it wasn’t our ancestors who were killed. Accountability needs to be taken and having standing monuments and memorials will constantly remind us of the accountability.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

Lynching in the Past and the Present

Lynching was, and still is, a method of control used by white people to keep black people in their lower place in society. Those black people who attempted to change this caste system, or who broke the official or unofficial rules created by white people, were killed both as a form of punishment as well as a message to other black people to not speak up or fight back in any way against their oppressors. Many Americans believe that the government is always just and will protect all Americans, but the truth is, that is simply not the case, in the past and in the present. Many victims of lynching were killed even when law enforcement knew it was going to happen. Often, those people who the government gave the duty of protecting others and upholding the law were the same people who were participating in the lynchings. The act of lynching continues to have legal protection in many ways right now. The idea of lynching comes from the idea of white supremacy, the idea that white people are naturally superior to all other races, and that they should be able to do whatever they want, because they are the ones who were supposedly given power by God. Those who questioned this insane idea were viewed as threats to the system that so many white people loved and actively benefitted from. This idea is illustrated by the fact that entire mobs of people took part in lynchings, rather than a few individuals. It was not only an individual crime, but a societal one.

There was so much that could have been done to fight back against lynchings in the past, yet the government actively pushed back against it, and continues to do so now. For example, Reconstruction in the South ended because of the Compromise of 1877, when Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency in exchange for removing federal troops from the South. The continued presence of federal troops would have helped to prevent lynchings, because white Southerners would have been hesitant to commit such a crime with federal forces in the area. Also, the federal government should have opened investigations into every lynching that happened, in order to discover and arrest everyone responsible. Unfortunately, many people in the government did not care about lynching enough to take serious action. Many officials indirectly defended lynching as shown by their opposition to anti-lynching proposals.

If I lived in a community where lynchings often happened, I would probably write constantly to various organizations and government officials to ask them to take even more action to fight back against lynching. I would also report the people responsible for the lynchings to the federal government, rather than local police, because it would be highly likely that the local police supported lynching and white supremacy. These days, I fight back against lynching by supporting organizations that strive to expose injustices against black people and black communities, such as Black Lives Matter. I would also write to news organizations, asking them to publish stories and report on lynchings that recently occurred in order to spread awareness about the individual crime as well as the concept of lynching, so more people are able to recognize it and fight back against lynching with me. Lynching can not be prevented by pretending it doesn’t exist anymore, and the only way we can stop the process from happening is by supporting black communities, exposing those responsible, and teaching our children about the racism and injustice that so many Americans experience every day.

boston, massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

Fear and Hatred

The act of lynching became popular in the years after the civil war. With reconstruction ideas and the continued freeing of blak slaves, southerns show a growing fear towards equality. They can feel their superiority above African Americans slipping through their hands, this creates an even stronger hatred towards African Americans. This hatred results into mob violence and lynchings. White Americans were afraid because they could no longer control African Americans by law, therefore they decided to find other ways to control them: with fear. Therefore they would publicly and shamelessly kill and torture African American people to prove their superiority. Acts like these would hardly ever be criminalized which further pushed the idea of white supremacy. An African American person could be accused of a crime and without any court case or proof of this white people would think it was acceptable to join together as a mob and murder this person. However, the people who are taking pictures with these dead bodies and proudly killing them aren’t even being arrested or held accountable. African Americans couldn’t trust the law system or the court to be on their side anyways so they could hardly fight these crimes. This is the climate that placed this constant fear into the hearts of African Americans, they see their friends being killed in the streets and no one does anything to help them. They never know if they could be next, so they are afraid to fight the white people in charge of this. The fear takes them away from justice and lets white people continuously push them down and dehumanize them.

There are a lot of things that could’ve done that could easily stop these lynchings. Firstly they could have cops stop these mobs of people and arrest them before they are able to commit these acts. Although sometimes they couldn’t have been stopped, most of the time police involvement could have stopped these acts. If the cops didn’t arrive in time they could arrest everyone who was seen at the lynching so they learn their lesson. These lynchings are murders of innocent people and these murderers shouldn’t be allowed to be free. Even showing up to these events should result in immediate arresting. These black lives have to be seen the same way that people would see white lives and that way these lynchings would’ve been stopped way faster and effectively.

If I personally wanted to stop a lynching in the late nineteenth centurary I would try to inform the police. Although they most likely wouldn’t do much I think that it would be helpful to have them there and perhaps they would stop the lynching itself. It is hard to say what you would do in this type of situation because although it is a definite life or death situation for them, getting yourself involved would make this situation life or death for you too. I would like to say I would jump in and try to stop it but that is hard to say. If this lynching was happening in modern day I would definitely call the cops and probably get some other people to try to help stop them with me. It is also important to get the media involved and spread awareness on these types of events. The more people who know, the more who would be willing to help you stop something like this from happening again.

Posts: 18

Lynching in America and What it Means Today

Lynching was one of the many tools used by white supremacists to secure their supremacy through murder, torture, manipulation, and fear. Lynching made victims of the Black American population and hindered the process of change after the end of the reconstruction. The terror caused by lynching ensured that not everyone in this country could count on or be protected by the judicial system and law enforcement. Victims of lynching were targeted because they were alleged perpetrators of crimes or were successful and threatened white dominance. They had no protection from law enforcement. As the video of the EJI showed, families of victims of lynching could be torn apart and the whole community suffered. No law enforcement could ever be counted on to protect the rest of the community. As efforts during the Reconstruction to “fix” the divided Southern communities died down due to corruption and politics, lynching was used to limit resistance against discriminatory racial laws and practices which were being strengthened each year. The creation of a climate of fear in the South pushed the mass migration of African Americans out of the South to the North and West. In a society where white supremacy was no longer supported by slavery, Jim Crow laws and lynching provided the environment of fear which was the only way for whites to keep their power.

Lynching in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries continued because of the lack of government response and the general climate of acceptance around it from whites. As we saw in class, postcards of lynching victims were prevelant around the South, demonstrating that these horrors were rarely questioned at the time. Lynching pereptuauted for so many generations because white children of lynchers were never shunned from the practice. In the “Trauma and the Legacy of Lynching” section, it was written how “at one Kentucky lynching, young white children between six and ten years old brought wood and tended to the fire in which the victim was burned. Boys especially were expected to actively engage in lynching; their roles expanded as they got older until, as young adults, they took on a direct role in the torture and murder.” What could have been done to end lynching sooner was for society to have taken an active role in recognizing the danger that it meant to future generations to expose children to lynching. Additionally, when Reconstruction ended, whites were able to resume their roles in supremacy with little resistance as politicians were elected on the basis of whether or not they would further support Reconstruction. Whites in government worked to remove Blacks from power and disenfranchise them. As the second section, “Back to Brutality: Restoring Racial Hierarchy Through Terror and Violence,” states: “Constructed of law and custom, force and fear, disenfranchisement, convict leasing, and Jim Crow segregation, the system [an intricate and complex system of racial subordination built after the Civil War to maintain and reinforce white supremacy in a world without chattel slavery] was fragile and fiercely guarded.” If stronger laws protecting Blacks were passed, especially for protection of Black convicts (as convict leasing later became the way for Blacks to be victims of economic exploitation), then perhaps lynching would have not have been so prevelant and general white supremacy would have been crippled.

What also allowed lynching to continue for so long was the lack of acknolwedgement of it. If I were alive and living in communities where lynchings took place at the time, I would have allied myself with Black activists to advocate for legal justice and recognition. That is very general, but I would try to help families of victims of lynching to take some legal action against the lynching perpetrators. Perhaps if there were more non-Black allies in the South working towards ending lynching, then racist government would have listened more. I would advocate for anti-discrimination and Jim Crow laws. In modern day, so little history about lynching is taught. As “Trauma and the Legacy of Lynching” mentions, government takes initiative to explain its reasoning for acknowledging the Holocaust, but does so little for the crimes that occured in America’s own past. I think this passage explains perfectly how important it is to ignore the crimes of the past: “Honoring civil rights activists and embracing their successes is appropriate and due, but when they are not accompanied by meaningful engagement with the difficult history of systematic violence perpetrated against Black Americans for decades after slavery, such celebrations risk painting an incomplete and distorted picture.” Today we should encourage reform in education and make sure that history classes teach the history of lynching.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

The Community around Lynching

I mean the message given by lynchings is clear, it's basically "know your place", "get out of our town" etc. I don't think much can be said about what these messages tell us about white supremacy or the creation of a climate of fear because those two are very obvious however, because these lynchings were not investigated very deeply it displays not only the attitude of the people but also the government into how much they care for people of color, telling people of color that they are on their own and that they could do next to nothing.

I think the best way to stop lynchings was to actually go about prosecuting those who were suspected to be involved in lynchings, however, there's one glaring issue with this, the south is about small government and they obviously wouldn't bother with investigating those cases themselves which leads into investigating with the FBI. The problem there lies that southern communities (and most likely government) would most likely be very hostile towards the investigators and it would be very difficult to conduct an investigation there. So that kind of leads to the only (kind of) viable solution which is honestly just getting the black communities out of the south which is kind of messed up in itself. This solution also sucks because it moves people out of their homes and actually appeases the KKK, however in my opinion there aren't many other viable solutions.

I'm not really sure what I could do, if I was visiting I could report a lynching to hopefully the FBI because the local police force wouldn't do anything however if I lived in a southern town where a lynching took place I would most likely be basically powerless to do anything to either stop a lynching or enact justice to be perfectly honest. I would most likely be not up against the town but also the police and the government of where I lived, I would be up against a whole culture of white supremacy, and against that, I really am most likely powerless.

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