Lynching. in. America. Robbie G. Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY. What were the primary motivations behind in the early half of the 20 th century?. lynching. 90% of the victims were Southern 73% of the victims were black 27% of the victims were white.
Robbie G. Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY.
What were the primary motivations behind in the early half of the 20th century?
73% of the victims were black
27% of the victims were white
According to the Tuskegee Institute,4,742 lynchingsoccurred between 1882-1968.
“…it is impossible for a Negro accused of a crime, or even suspected of a crime, to escape a white man's vengeance or his justice.”(Editorial in The Charleston (1918) )
“Easy people imagine that, having hanged a Negro, the mob goes quietly about its business; but that is never the way of the mob. Once released, the spirit of anarchy spreads and spreads, not subsiding until it has accomplished its full measure of evil. “ (Ray Stannard Baker, What is a Lynching?, McClure’s Magazine. (February, 1905) )
“When his own suffering was more than he could stand, he could live only by witnessing the suffering of others.” (Erskine Caldwell, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937))
“When the Negro's corpse fell, the pieces of rope were hotly contended for.” (Vicksburg Evening Post (4th May, 1919) )
Six out of ten people in the South thought lynchings were justified in cases of sexual assault
“mobocratic spirit” Abraham Lincoln
For which crime was someone lynched?
Lynch was tried in Virginia court but it was declared that the “Lynch Law” had been appropriate because of the hysterical conditions of war
Early 19th century: “The Regulators” (White Caps) - bands of citizens who punished criminals nonlethally (tar + feathering)
1835 lynching slave revolts needed to be repressed “patrollers”- armed committees of planters/thugs to restrict slave movement/meetings 1880s- KKK began“night-riding”Lynch Law and Early Forms of Lynching
Bonds within the community are strengthened
Exciting, spontaneous activity with the entire town
Criminals were getting what they deserved
The greater (white) community, especially white women, needs to be protected, despite some minor brutalityWhy Did the Community Approve of Lynchings?
After the Treaty of Versailles concluded the war, Americans became extremely disillusioned with international relations
Rise of KKK (Atlanta)---> millions of members by 1920World War I
Birth of a Nation (1915)
Spectators at the lynching of Jesse Washington (1916)
“Look first at Stacy, then turn to the little girl in the summer dress, looking at Stacy, and then to the man behind her, perhaps her father, in the spotless white shirt and slacks and the clean white skimmer. They will stand there forever, admiring the proof of their civilization.” (Roger Rosenblatt, Confronting the Past (17th February, 2000) )
In Our Town, Cynthia Carr describes her own investigations in her family’s dark past, one OF which she was not aware until recently. As she discovers the implications of her grandfather’s involvement in the Ku Klux Klan, and especially in the Marion lynchings of 1930, she realizes the tacit compliance of her father, and thousands of other observers in Marion, Indiana. After speaking with James Cameron, a survivor of the Marion lynchings, she amounts to the shameful nature of her family’s story. In addition to her efforts to solve her grandfather’s mystery, Carr explores the observers of the lynching in Beitler’s photograph. Some seem to be on a date, some seem angry, some seem enthralled by the prospect of a lynching, and some seem to be passively watching the hanging of two innocent men, Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp. Even thought the Marion spectators might not be throwing rocks or tying the noose, every word, or every second that they watch, they are in some way participating in the utmost injustice.
“The lynching of Leo Frank was a damnable outrage. There was no excuse, no mitigating circumstances to justify the actions of the Georgia mob. An action like that makes a decent man sick.” (Pres. William Howard Taft)
Ida B. Wells
Lynching: “murder of a U.S. citizen by a mob of 3+ people
Sheriff/official who fails to protect prisoner is guilt of felony
U.S. government can prosecute lynchers if state government does not
County in which lynching occurs must pay $10,000 to victim’s family
Passed in H.O.R./Filibuster in SenateAnti-Lynching Legislation
mob: 3+ persons
State officer’s neglect--->5 yr prison sentence and $5,000 fine
Conspirators-->5-25 yr prison sentence
County where lynching occurs: $2,000-$10,000 fine (to family, or to federal government if there is no family)
To prove that summary execution does not save the public money
Does not openly condemn lynching- criminalizes negligence by officials
Was also defeated by Southern Senators in a filibusterAnti-Lynching Legislation
Pro-legislation senators willing to protest the filibuster, but faced strong dissent from Southern senators
FDR decided not to speak out against the filibuster
The anti-lynching movement had seventy senators and therefore, had the opportunity to challenge the filibuster and force a vote. But not all seventy were willing to challenge FDR’s decision nor stir resentment in Southern senators because of their control over several committeesAnti-Lynching Legislation
Any American “who takes part in the action of a mob…is no true son of this great democracy, but its betrayer”
Woodrow Wilson, as motivated by the NAACP
Lynching is a “very sore spot on our boast of civilization”
Congress ought to wipe the stain of barbaric lynching from the banners of a free and orderly, representative democracy” (1921)
Warren HardingPresidential Reactions to Lynching
John Carter, a mentally retarded black man lynched in Little Rock, AK.
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh, Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Billie Holiday, performing live
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop,Here is a strange
Observers of the lynching of Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith, and James Cameron in Marion, Indiana.
At 7:00 in the evening, May 4, 1927, they dragged Carter's body from City Hall down Broadway to the intersection of 9th and Broadway...and they set a huge bonfire in the middle of the streetcar tracks at that intersection and burnt Carter's body and one of the arms was ripped off and used to direct traffic."
Lynching of the spirit
“Strange Fruit” was an opportunity to put into words what so many people had seen and lived through
“resigned bitterness” (Benny Green)
Larger impact on white liberals (in North) than the impact among black intelligentsia (Albert Murrows)
Blacks as victims (did not approve)
Feared the song would start new tensions
Held “Strange Fruit” as sacred“Strange Fruit” and Billie Holiday
Despite their arrests, the two men were eventually acquitted by an all white jury.
New developments in 2004 allowed for the trial to be reopened, based on new evidence that suggested more people may have been involved.The Murder of Emmett Till (1955)
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994)Hate Crimes Act (2000)
"Hate crimes do more than threaten the safety and welfare of all citizens. They inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage and tear at the very fabric of free society. Crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups not only harm individual victims but send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs. Hate crimes can and do intimidate and disrupt entire communities… In a democratic society, citizens cannot be required to approve of the beliefs and practices of others, but must never commit criminal acts on account of them.”
Shepard never regained consciousness after the severe lacerations on which surgeons couldn’t operate, and the brain stem damage which he suffered.Henderson and McKinley claimed the “gay-panic defense”.
Matthew Shepard, homosexual student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally killed by two Laramie citizens, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinley.
President Clinton was motivated by the innocent lynching of Matthew Shepard to pass hate crime legislation that included bias about sexual orientation. His efforts were refuted in Congress, however.
Tacit compliance is participation.
1In a multiple-bias incident two conditions must be met: 1) more than one offense type must occur in the incident and 2) at least two offense types must be motivated by different biases.
On Monday, June 12, 2005, the Senate passed a non-binding resolution apologizing for not enacting anti-lynching legislation.
“It’s a resolution, not a law… I'm afraid we still can't say with certainty that the last lynching has occurred.” (Nell Irvin Painter, Professor of American History at Princeton University)
The Senate "expresses the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States."
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Digital image. [The lynching of Rubin Stacy. Onlookers, including four young girls]. 1935. 04 June 2006 <http://www.withoutsanctuary.org/pics_51.html>.
Digital image. [The lynching of Virgil Jones, Robert Jones, Thomas Jones, and Joseph Riley, warning note. Black onlookers.]. 1908. 02 June 2006 <http://www.withoutsanctuary.org/pics_64.html>.
Dray, Philip. At the Hands of Persons Unknown. 1st ed. Toronto: Random House, 2002.
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"Lynching by Year and by Race (1882-1968)." Classroom: the Charles Chesnutt Digital Archive. Tuskegee Institute. 8 June 2006 <http://faculty.berea.edu/browners/chesnutt/classroom/lynching_table_year.html>.
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Oney, Steve. And the Dead Shall Rise the Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.
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