A report published today details new information on the gruesome, vile history of lynching in the South, including 700 more names of lynching victims than had previously been recorded.
The report, titled Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror and published by the Equal Justice Initiative, took five years of research to complete, and covers the years 1877 to 1950 and the 4,000 sites where lynchings took place. The New York Times spoke to EJI's founder, Bryan Stevenson, about his project to build memorial markers to those who were lynched during those years in the South:
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.
At the end of 2013, EJI was successful in bringing three detailed historical markers to Montgomery, Alabama that gave context to the city's involvement in the domestic slave trade (pictured above). As the Times reported, both Montgomery and Alabama governments were not encouraging of the installation of the markers.
Over the past four years, EJI staff have spent thousands of hours researching and documenting terror lynchings in the twelve most active lynching states in America: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. We distinguish "racial terror lynchings"—the subject of this report—from hangings and mob violence that followed some criminal trial process or that were committed against non-minorities without the threat of terror. Those lynchings were a crude form of punishment that did not have the features of "terror lynchings" directed at racial minorities who were being threatened and menaced in multiple ways.
It also goes into extensive detail about specific lynching cases, particularly the foul practice of public lynchings, during which spectators collected body parts of the dead as souvenirs while drinking lemonade and purchasing postcards.
[Image via AP]