What the Black Lynching Numbers Don’t Reveal

Reblogged from DAME.

Last week, according to an article by Campbell Robertson in the the New York Times, the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), founded and run by Bryan Stevenson, released a new report on the history of what they call “racial terror lynchings” that occurred across 12 states in the American South, from 1877 to 1950. Subsequent media coverage focused on the report’s finding of 3,959 African American victims. (In the report summary, the authors distinguish the “racial terror lynchings” they studied from the more popular hangings and mob killings that “often followed some criminal trial process or that were committed against non-minorities without the threat of terror.”) This report comes on the heels of news of Northeastern University law and journalism students’ work documenting racial killings from the Jim Crow era. These and other projects reflect a growing commitment to restorative justice for anti-Black violence that White officials historically refused to punish.

The EJI report focuses not only on the lynchings that are most familiar to many Americans—the ones that were attended by hundreds or thousands, documented by photographers, and where White lynchers and spectators took trophies. It also studies the smaller, less spectacular killings that were more common in White southerners’ use of violence to punish and discourage African Americans’ resistance to White supremacy. The researchers’ inventory is thus likely to add more depth and breadth to knowledge of lynchings’ widespread and terrorizing nature. As helpful as the report will be—particularly with its beautifully designed graphics and enumerated statistics of the killings— what it won’t do is give us a sense of the suffering this violence caused, unless we use the report to begin a much deeper, more substantive conversation about the lived consequences of these killings for the African Americans who experienced them.

EPI_Lynching Map

Figure 1: Map of 73 Years of Lynchings

Read more.

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