Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lynching in the South: 1877-1950

Today's New York Times is running an article on a report chronicling the history of lynching in the American South.  The report was recently published by Equal Justice Initiative out of Montgomery, Alabama.  The report has found almost 4000 victims of lynching in the South between 1877 (the end of Reconstruction) and 1950.

According to the accompanying map, the most lynchings in this period, by far, occurred in Phillips County, Arkansas the site of the 1919 Elaine Race Riot.  Four Louisiana parishes rounded out the top five.



Here is a taste of the Times article:

On Tuesday, the organization he founded and runs, the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., released a report on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research and 160 visits to sites around the South. The authors of the report compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950.

Next comes the process of selecting lynching sites where the organization plans to erect markers and memorials, which will involve significant fund-raising, negotiations with distrustful landowners and, almost undoubtedly, intense controversy.

The process is intended, Mr. Stevenson said, to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way.

“Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Mr. Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work.

The lynching report is part of a longer project Mr. Stevenson began several years ago. One phase involved the erection of historical markers about the extensive slave markets in Montgomery. The city and state governments were not welcoming of the markers, despite the abundance of Civil War and civil rights movement memorials in Montgomery, but Mr. Stevenson is planning to do the same thing elsewhere.