Você está na página 1de 11

1 Lynchings


Jerrion DeVonta Shell University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Educational Policy 630-001 Professor Michael Bonds Monday, April 9th, 2012

2 Lynchings


Lynching is different from regular murder or assault because it was a mutilation/killing that is committed outside the boundaries of due process by a mob who ratifies revenge for an offense. During the late 19th century, lynching frequently enjoyed the approval of the public. It is a practice that was committed, supposedly, in the name of justice. But the motivations for these killings were unfamiliar to the themes of justice and honor. This paper will discuss the history of lynching. It will then go into the lynchings of America. This paper will discuss policies that were intended to protect people from lynching but failed to do so. Finally, we will discuss present day lynchings.

3 Lynchings

Table of Contents

Abstract..2 Table of Contents.....................3 The History of Lynching4-5 Lynchings in America..5-8 Policies Intended to Prevent Lynching8-10 Present Day.10 Conclusion..10

4 Lynchings

The History of Lynching Lynching is a derivative term that was taken from the name of Col. Charles Lynch who was a landowner in Virginia in 1790. Lynch had a habit of holding illegal trials of local lawbreakers in his front yard. Upon conviction of the accused, which was usually the case, Lynch took to whipping the suspects while they were tied to a tree in front of his house. Over time, this practice became known as simply "lynching". Although the mistreatment of slaves was common throughout the early part of the 19th century, lynching was a separate practice apart from slavery. The term "lynching" refers only to the concept of vigilantism, in which citizens would assume the role of judge, jury and executioner. Vigilante groups were common during the last half of the 19th century and were fed by a strong notion that the existing laws were not functioning properly resulting in criminals, especially black criminals, being set free at the expense of the public. According to Bailey and Snedker (2011), lynching is defined by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as an extralegal killing committed by three or more individuals who claimed their murderous actions were intended to uphold justice or tradition. Lynchings have occurred throughout American History, across geographical regions, and have targeted individuals from various racial and ethnic backgrounds. The most widely known manifestation and the one that is most commonly focused on are the lynchings of Black Americans in the Jim Crow South. Whites were sometimes lynched in southern states, typically in sparsely populated, predominately those of white counties. Those targeted individuals were accused of rape, murder, or both. Scholars across the board agree that the movement of terror waged against American Blacks which was intended to suppress political participation and economic independence (Bailey and Snedker, 2011, p. 845).

5 Lynchings

Lynching became almost a necessary practice "that served to give dramatic warning to all black inhabitants that the iron clad system of white supremacy was not to be challenged by deed, word or even thought" (Gado, 2012). Even though many blacks died at the hands of many whites though lynching, it would be improper to say that lynching was only used against blacks. Whites, as well suffered from the rope, and at times in a greater number than blacks. It seems as if those who would become victims of such horrific murders was determined by the geographical location of the lynching/ where it took place rather than the victim's offense. According to Gado (2012), In the deep South, most often the victim was black. In the West, the victim was most often white. However, lynching, when used against Blacks, was developed for reasons other than a form of additional justice. Lynching was the roughest form of confrontation to Black progression. This killing by torture became a device of control that involved Black women and children and foreign nationals as well as black men (Browne-Marshall, 2007, p 170). A lynch mob has as its goal subjugating the victim and spreading terror. For Blacks in America, lynching was an attempt to prevent their ascension, thus forcing a perpetual labor class regulated to Americas bottom rung socially, politically, and economically (Browne-Marshall, 2007, p 170). Blacks were lynched for refusing to stay in their place. Blacks were lynched while attempting to escape the racial persecution of the South by migrating North. Without the equal protection of the laws, the Black community was made vulnerable to these hideous murderous mobs (Browne-Marshall, 2007, p 176). Lynchings in America Lynching became a social phenomenon. Members of a lynch mob became entangled into a brutal emotion of racism. During this time, Whites attacked Blacks randomly or based on feud. Black men were lynched for disputing with a White man, attempting to register to vote,

6 Lynchings

unpopularity, self-defense, testifying against a White man, asking a white woman in marriage and peeping in a window. According to Browne-Marshall (2007) Mobs used lynching as a punishment for Black who violated the racial divisions sanctioned by Plessey. In spirit, Plessey vindicated the mobs action by supporting the notion that whites hated blacks too much to control their own actions (pg. 175). Mob violence and terrorism became an outlet for White frustration and jealousy in rural communities. Photographs show the approval the approval of Whites: women, men, children and elders standing next to the mutilated body of the Black person who forgot their place the bottom (Browne-Marshall, 2007, p.171). Although Blacks have long been the main targets of lynching, lynch mobs also murdered Whites. Browne-Marshall (2007) In Frank v. Mangum, a Jewish defendant, Leo M. Frank, was awaiting retrial in the rape and murder of Mary Phagan, a thirteen-year-old girl, when he became the victim of a lynching (pg. 177). Frank supervised a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia at which Phagan was an employee. Phagans body was found in the basement of the factory. Angry mobs made hostile statements about Frank. During the reading of the verdict, Frank was removed from the courthouse for fear of an acquittal would lead to mob violence. Frank was convicted of the crime. He appealed saying that the mob had an influence on the jurors decision. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the verdict. The U.S. Supreme court affirmed the lower court allowing the verdict to stand. Governor Frank Slaton sentenced Frank to life in prison. On August 17th, 1915, a mob of 25 men stormed in the prison. Frank was in recovery due to a fellow prisoner slicing his throat. He was forced inside of a car and driven to the hometown of Mary Phagan. There they hung him from a tree near the home of Phagan. No one was convicted for this crime (Browne-Marshall, 2007, p. 177). According to Browne-Marshall (2007) In 1986,the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole gave Leo Frank a posthumous pardon (p. 178).

7 Lynchings

In most cases the lynching of Black men and women took place with little provocation or evidence of wrong doing. It didnt matter if you were associated with the event or not, if there was a mob, the blood of a black person was going to be had. According to Browne-Marshall (2007), In Columbus, Mississippi, a black woman was raped and lynched after the lynch mob could not locate her son to lynch. A Black man was lynched after he refused to dance when ordered to do so by a white man (pg. 176). The true motives of lynching were usually economic or political. Well off Blacks were lynched by Whites because they were jealous of Black prosperity. Throughout time, lynching intensified in the north as well as the South. Lynchings in Milwaukee and Newburgh indicate how the sectional crisis and the Civil War destabilized and reconfigured northern political culture and social relations. In Milwaukee and Newburgh, the Irish Catholic community acted out of a sense of racial difference and white supremacy shaped by Democratic party politics that linked Irish workers and Southern slaveholders in common defense of racial hierarchy. The racial lynchings performed by Irish Americans evinced profound ethnic solidarity, seeking to avenge crimes against countrymen in the larger context of the Irish communitys familiarity with Old World practices of communal violence and its perception if its marginalization in American public life. In war time events that paralleled on a smaller scale Southern whites resorted to collective racial violence against emancipated African Americans during Reconstruction, Nothern Irish Catholics turned to racial lynching as they sought to reject Republican racial egalitarianism and to reassert racial hierarchy. On September 6, 1861 in Milwaukee a crowd of 50 to 75 Irishmen forced their way inside of a jail a seized a man named Marshall Clarke. Clark and another Black American, James Shelton had exchanged words and blows with two Irishmen after took offense to the two Black

8 Lynchings

Americans interaction with white women on the street. During the altercation, Shelton fatally stabbed one of the Irishmen. The mob began preparing and discussing the lynching openly. Shelton was able to escape the mob but Clarke was dragged from the jail and brutally beaten along the way. He was dragged to the fire house a predominately Irish community where he was questioned and then hung from a pile driver. Thousands flocked to see the body, some carrying away pieces of the rope as mementos of the event. Policies Intended to Prevent Lynching George White, a Black Congressman introduced the first anti lynching bill in 1900(Browne-Marshall, 2007, p.180). The bill was purposely stalled in the House Judiciary Committee. Later, a White Democrat by the name of Leonidas Dyer proposed an anti- lynching bill in 1918. Through the help and support of the NAACP the bill was passed by the House of Representatives in 1922. It was later defeated by the Senate filibuster of Southern Democrats. White lynch mobs attacked Blacks with freedom. Law enforcement offered little or no protection against the lynching of Black women, men and children. Too often, law enforcement were actually associated in the murders. Federal and state courts offered little protection. Living in the intimidation produced by White lynch mobs became a way of life for Blacks in America. Black women who fought against White rapist were lynched. In certain cases, Black women were raped and then lynched. Racial hatred was considered a natural response to racial interaction. Thus, law enforcement relinquished its responsibility to stop a mob from assaulting Blacks. According to Browne-Marshall (2007) In the one and only case, we have U.S v Shipp. The Supreme Court tried a Sherriff in Tennessee for assisting in the capture of a prisoner. On January 23, 1906, Nevada Taylor was raped on her way home from work on a very late night.

9 Lynchings

Taylor, a White woman, never seen her attacker, she didnt know how to describe him, she didnt even know if he was black or white. Sheriff Shipp arrested a Black man by the name of Ed Johnson. He was never identified or accused of the rape. He argued that he was at work and actually had witnesses to verify his alibi. When the lynch mob had formed, he actually had the protection of the law enforcement on his side. Later, Johnson was convicted of the crime and was sentenced to death. There was no appeal even attempted to be made. Even if he was the wrong man, Johnson was still a dead man walking. That is when Noah Pardon a prominent Black lawyer decided to step in. He was able to have the execution postponed until Justice Harlan was able to review the case. Justice sent a telegram to Sheriff Shipp letting him know that Johnson was to be protected. When the town got word of the telegram they went into an uproar. That night they went an attacked the jail. Johnson was drug to a nearby bridge where he was hung twice and shot dozens of time. Justice Marshall was outraged that Shipp would allow Johnson to be attacked. The Supreme Court help Shipp and other in contempt for not obeying orders in the protection of Jonson until the court had reviewed his case. Shipp and the other defendants were given 90 days in prison. Presidents such as Warren G. Harding, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to take any action towards getting anti-lynching legislation. Thus we have Black Americans who began to develop their own campaigns against lynching. Women such as Mary Church Terrell and Ida B Well-Barnett were joined by many other in their protest against lynching and racial discrimination. In 1935 an anti-lynching bill was proposed by two U.S. Senators by the name of Edward Costigan and Robert F Wagner (Browne-Marshall, 2007, p. 180). The U.S. Senate refused to pass federal anti-lynching legislation and local anti-lynching

10 Lynchings

laws were never enforced. Riots and lynchings continued on for years but they did begin to die down with no assistance from the law. Present Day The last reported modern lynching took place in 1998. On June 7th James Byrd Jr. was tied to a pick-up truck, his throat was cut before they dragged him across the country roads. James Byrd Jr. was dragged over two miles to his death in Jasper, Texas. His skin, blood, arms, head and genitalia, and other parts of his body were scattered along the highway (BrowneMarshall, 2007, p. 182). Three White men who were linked with a White supremacist group were tried and convicted. Two of the men who were trying to become a part of the organization received the death penalty. One of them received a life sentence; he will be eligible for parole in 2038. According to Hill (2011), In 2005, the United States Senate officially apologized for failing to pass anti-lynching legislation. In 2008, Congress approved the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, empowering the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute unsolved murderers and acts of racial violence during the civil right era. Conclusion Lynching arose from the ashes of a ruthless and costly war that put brother against brother and father against son. The Civil War left a trail of blood and bitterness that twisted its way through consecutive generations and set the stage for a fury of so called mob justice that killed thousands of men, women and children, most of them black. And between the years 1880 and 1905, a period of twenty five years, not one person was ever convicted of any crime associated with these killings. Lynchings are, by far the most extensive series of unsolved murders in American history.

11 Lynchings


Allen, J., & Littlefield, J. (2003). On looking: Lynching photographs and legacies of lynching after 9/11. American Quarterly, 55(3), 457-478.

Browne-Marshall, G. J. (2007). Race, law, and american society. New York: Taylor & Francis Group.

Gado, M. (2012). Carnival of death: Lynching in america. Retrieved from http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/mass/lynching/index_1.html

Hill, K. (2011). Lynching and the making of modern america. Reviews in American History, 39, 652-659.

Pfeifer, M. (2010). The northern united states and genisis of racial lynching: The lynching of african americans in the civil war. The Journal of American History, 621-632.