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: http://withoutsanctuary.org/A 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 of the bystanders/perpetrators.
There were folks who objected to lynchings and who tried to do something about it. You have Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s crusading journalism and her steadfast advocacy that something had to be done to stop these lynchings.You have Eleanor Roosevelt’s response (on the handout I distributed) 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.
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.
Now it’s your turn. You are to post on the following:
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 https://www.nytimes.com/1998/06/10/us/black-man-fatally-dragged-in-a-possible-racial-killing.html), 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, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/13/us/gay-man-dies-from-attack-fanning-outrage-and-debate.html) .
What would you have done, assuming your goal was to end lynching? What would you have done about it? What would you do about it now?