Thursday, June 23, 2005

Lynch Mob

Lynch Mob

Lynch Mob (1998)

From "The Negro Holocaust -- Lynchings and Race Riots in the United States":

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the lynching of Black people in the Southern and border states became an institutionalized method used by whites to terrorize Blacks and maintain white supremacy. In the South, during the period 1880 to 1940, there was deep-seated and all-pervading hatred and fear of the Negro which led white mobs to turn to “lynch law” as a means of social control. Lynchings -- open public murders of individuals suspected of crime conceived and carried out more or less spontaneously by a mob -- seem to have been an American invention. In Lynch-Law , the first scholarly investigation of lynching, written in 1905, author James E. Cutler stated that “lynching is a criminal practice which is peculiar to the United States.”

Most of the lynchings were by hanging or shooting, or both. However, many were of a more hideous nature -- burning at the stake, maiming, dismemberment, castration, and other brutal methods of physical torture. Lynching therefore was a cruel combination of racism and sadism, which was utilized primarily to sustain the caste system in the South. Many white people believed that Negroes could only be controlled by fear. To them, lynching was seen as the most effective means of control.


Lynchings occurred throughout the United States; it was not a sectional crime. However, the great majority of lynchings in the United States took place in the Southern and border states. According to social economist Gunnar Myrdal: “The Southern states account for nine-tenths of the lynchings. More than two-thirds of the remaining one-tenth occurred in the six states which immediately border the South: Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas.” Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama were the leading lynching states. These five states furnished nearly half the total victims. Mississippi had the highest incidence of lynchings in the South as well as the highest for the nation, with Georgia and Texas taking second and third places, respectively. However, there were lynchings in the North and West. In fact, every state in the continental United States with the exception of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont has had lynching casualties.

From "About Lynching" by Robert L. Zangrando:

Statistics do not tell the entire story, however. These were recorded lynchings; others were never reported beyond the community involved. Furthermore, mobs used especially sadistic tactics when blacks were the prime targets. By the 1890s lynchers increasingly employed burning, torture, and dismemberment to prolong suffering and excite a "festive atmosphere" among the killers and onlookers. White families brought small children to watch, newspapers sometimes carried advance notices, railroad agents sold excursion tickets to announced lynching sites, and mobs cut off black victims' fingers, toes, ears, or genitalia as souvenirs. Nor was it necessarily the handiwork of a local rabble; not infrequently, the mob was encouraged or led by people prominent in the area's political and business circles. Lynching had become a ritual of interracial social control and recreation rather than simply a punishment for crime.

Photograph of a lynching victim

And from a history of the "Anti-Lynching Campaign" by Dickson D. Bruce Jr.:

Women played a major role in the campaign. The most effective leader in its early development was Ida B. Wells-Barnett. An African-American teacher and journalist, Wells-Barnett was moved initially by the 1892 Memphis lynching of three black businessmen whose success had outraged their white competitors. Responding with a series of newspaper columns, later expanded into the widely circulated pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (1892), Wells-Barnett documented the innocence of many victims of lynching, especially those charged with rape, while denouncing the failure of leading white southerners to act forcefully against the evil. In 1895, she published a larger investigative work, A Red Record, which served as a major resource for the campaign itself. Wells-Barnett led legal efforts to prevent lynchings and worked through both the NACW and the NAACP (an organization that she helped found) to secure antilynching legislation. It was through these organizations that other black women, including the writers Angelina Weld Grimké and Georgia Douglas Johnson, also became active in the effort.

Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, an increasing number of white women, especially in the South, joined the antilynching movement. Revolted by the brutality of lynching, and resenting the white southern defense of lynching based on the "protection" of white womanhood, women such as Jessie Daniel Ames and others worked through the CIC and, after 1930, the ASWPL to try to bring the practice to an end. Focusing on education and the courts- -- and ambivalent about federal legislation -- they worked to create a climate of opinion among white southerners that would lead to lynching's demise.

And, speaking of federal legislation, from the Washington Post, June 14, 2005:

The U.S. Senate last night approved a resolution apologizing for its failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation decades ago, marking the first time the body has apologized for the nation's treatment of African Americans.

One-hundred and five years after the first anti-lynching bill was proposed by a black congressman, senators approved by a voice vote Resolution 39, which called for the lawmakers to apologize to lynching victims, survivors and their descendants, several of whom watched from the gallery.

Of course, not all of our elected officials saw the wisdom in condemning mob violence and sadistic, senseless murders. Courtesy of the Baltimore Times, here's a report (as of June 20th):

Although 13 senators are on record as opposing the recent resolution apologizing for not passing anti-lynching legislation, another eight signed up in days after the measure had been passed by the Senate, records show. Taken together, slightly more than a fifth of the Senate refused to support the measure before it was adopted.

“This resolution has been circulated for months now. Everyone knew about it. So, to me, all of the persons who did not sign it show lack of concern for this important issue,” says U. S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. “I think everybody that didn't sign the bill has made a serious revelation about how they feel about race in America in the 21st Century.”

The 13 senators still refusing to co-sponsor the resolution are: Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn.); Robert Bennett, (R-Utah); Michael Enzi and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.); Judd Gregg and John Sununu (R- N.H.); Richard Shelby, (R-Ala.); Jon Kyl, (R-Ariz.); Gordon Smith, (R-Ore.); John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas); and Thad Cochran and Trent Lott (R-Miss.).


Supporters had requested a vote during normal business hours, but [Bill] Frist arranged for the vote to take place in the evening, after the major network news programs had aired in the East and Midwest. Frist's rejection of requests for a roll-call vote protected opponents who did not want to be on record as opposing the resolution.

Capitol Hill sources say four Senators -- Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) -- insisted that a recorded vote not be taken.

''America is home of the brave, but I'm afraid there may be a few cowards who have to cover to their very narrow-minded and backward, hateful constituency,'' Janet Langhart Cohen, a former journalist, said in an interview with ABC News. ''They're hiding out, and it's reminiscent of a pattern of hiding out under a hood, in the night, riding past, scaring people.''

Cohen is the wife of William Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and former Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton. She says her 17-year-old cousin, Jimmy Gillenwaters, was lynched by a mob in 1912 near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

I decided to put this image up today after it was mentioned in a thread at Democratic Underground.

Notice anything that the opponents of lynching have in common? You got it. They are all members of a political party that claims to care deeply about "the culture of life."

This isn't an issue of political correctness or an oversight due to a busy schedule. These thirteen senators have had plenty of time to clarify or reverse their stance. What does it say about the state of our "land of liberty" when one out of every five Republican senators appears to believe that public murders by bigoted vigilantes should not be denounced? Apparently, for some elected officials, like Trent "We-Wouldn't-Have-Had-All-These-Problems" Lott, lynching doesn't merit a thumbs-way-down rating. Instead, the message they prefer sending is the show must go on. Yeee-haaa. We're gonna have us a necktie party. Pack a blanket (and hood) and bring the kids.

Oh, and don't worry about any knee-jerk, liberal nitpicking -- like that "quaint" Geneva Convention or the "absurd" Amnesty International who only listen to disassembling "people who hate America."

Well, Bush almost got it right. There is dissembling on display here -- and it's coming from people who are still hating in America.

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