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New Report Compiles A Devastating Count of Nearly 4,000 Lynchings of Black People in the US, Showing This Form of White Terrorism Had Profound Impact on American History

lynching-in-marion-jpg-20160519-minThere were 3,959 Black people lynched in the United States between 1877 and 1950—a number that is 700 more than previously known—and Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana had more lynchings than any other state in the country. These revelations are contained in an astounding new report by the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative that attempts to place this horrid form of American racial terrorism in its proper historical context as a tool of white supremacy that had a profound impact on the nation.

The report, called “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror,” ties lynching to a broader picture of white social control, showing how lynchings affected African-American migration patterns, effectively turning many Southern communities from predominantly Black to overwhelmingly white virtually overnight and sending millions of Black people to the cities of the North to escape this terrorism. It is a significantly more nuanced view of how whites used lynching to serve particular purposes—and how lynchings were a seldom-discussed driver of the Great Migration of Black people to the North.

Provocatively, the report suggests that it was the imposition of capital punishment that brought a reduction in the number of lynchings in the South—basically the nation replaced this form of terrorism that government quietly sanctioned with a more official means of killing Black people. More than eight in 10 American lynchings between 1889 and 1918 occurred in the South, according to the report, and more than eight in 10 of the nearly 1,400 legal executions carried out in this country since 1976 have been in the South.

“That the death penalty’s roots are sunk deep in the legacy of lynching is evidenced by the fact that public executions to mollify the mob continued after the practice was legally banned,” the report states.

In addition to killing thousands, helping to marginalize Black people in the country’s political, economic, and social systems and fueling a massive migration out of the South, the EJI says “lynching—and other forms of racial terrorism—inflicted deep traumatic and psychological wounds on survivors, witnesses, family members, and the entire African-American community. Whites who participated in or witnessed gruesome lynchings and socialized their children in this culture of violence also were psychologically damaged. And state officials’ indifference to and complicity in lynchings created enduring national and institutional wounds that we have not yet confronted or begun to heal.”

The EJI calls in the report for the establishment of monuments and memorials to commemorate lynching victims, which the group says “has the power to end the silence and inaction that have compounded this psycho-social trauma and to begin the process of recovery.”

“The absence of a prominent public memorial acknowledging racial terrorism is a powerful statement about our failure to value the African Americans who were killed or gravely wounded in this brutal campaign of racial violence,” the report states. “National commemoration of the atrocities inflicted on African Americans during decades of racial terrorism would begin building trust between the survivors of racial terrorism and the governments and legal systems that failed to protect them.”

The EJI defines lynchings as acts of terrorism “because these murders were carried out with impunity, sometimes in broad daylight, often ‘on the courthouse lawn,’” according to the report. “These lynchings were not ‘frontier justice,’ because they generally took place in communities where there was a functioning criminal justice system that was deemed too good for African Americans. Terror lynchings were horrific acts of violence whose perpetrators were never held accountable. Indeed, some ‘public spectacle lynchings’ were attended by the entire white community and conducted as celebratory acts of racial control and domination.”

How likely was the Black community to get assistance from the federal government during this reign of terror? Not likely. This was President Theodore Roosevelt’s take on the subject:  “The greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration, especially by Black men, of the hideous crime of rape,” Roosevelt said.

Not only did the EJI find evidence of 700 more lynching than previously thought, but over a period of four years the EJI staff spent thousands of hours documenting where lynchings actually occurred in the 12 most active lynching states in America: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The result is the most detailed accounting of this horrid system ever collected.

In these 12 states, this is how the lynchings were broken down:

Georgia 586

Mississippi 576

Louisiana 540

Arkansas 503

Texas 376

Florida 331

Alabama 326

Tennessee 225

South Carolina 164

Kentucky 154

North Carolina 102

Virginia 76

Total 3959

The EJI even catalogued them by county. These were the top 10 counties for lynching:

1. Phillips, AR 243

2. Caddo, LA 54

3. Lafourche, LA 50

4. Tensas, LA 40

5. Ouachita, LA 35

6. Orange, FL 34

7. Bossier, LA 32

8. Marion, FL 30

9. Jefferson, AL 29

10. Dallas, AL 25

The EJI divided lynchings into six different types: (1) lynchings that resulted from a wildly distorted fear of interracial sex; (2) lynchings in response to casual social transgressions; (3) lynchings based on allegations of serious violent crime; (4) public spectacle lynchings; (5) lynchings that escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African-American community; and (6) lynchings of sharecroppers, ministers and community leaders who resisted mistreatment, which were most common between 1915 and 1940.

The first category, lynchings based on usually spurious charges of sexual assault, was the most common. According to the EJI, nearly 25 percent of the lynchings of Black people in the South were based on charges of interracial sexual assault.

“The mere accusation of rape, even without an identification by the alleged victim, could arouse a lynch mob,” the EJI writes. “The definition of Black-on-white ‘rape’ in the South required no allegation of force because white institutions, laws, and most white people rejected the idea that a white woman would willingly consent to sex with an African-American man.”

As examples, the report describes what happened in 1889, in Aberdeen, Mississippi, when Keith Bowen allegedly tried to enter a room where three white women were sitting. No more serious transgression was alleged against him. That was it—he entered a room. Bowen was lynched by the “entire (white) neighborhood” for his “offense,” the report states.

In the case of General Lee, he was lynched by a white mob in 1904 for merely knocking on the door of a white woman’s house in Reevesville, South Carolina.

In 1912, Thomas Miles was lynched for allegedly inviting a white woman to have a cold drink with him.

The descriptions of the public spectacle lynchings in the report are particularly disturbing.

“Large crowds of white people, often numbering in the thousands and including elected officials and prominent citizens, gathered to witness pre-planned, heinous killings that featured prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment, and/or burning of the victim,” the report says. “White press justified and promoted these carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and corpse, and the victim’s body parts collected as souvenirs. These killings were bold, public acts that implicated the entire community and sent a message that African-Americans were sub-human, their subjugation was to be achieved through any means necessary, and whites who carried out lynchings would face no legal repercussions.”

One of the examples cited tells the story of Luther Holbert, who in 1904 was accused of killing a local white landowner. A white mob captured Holbert and a Black woman believed to be his wife and they were taken to Doddsville, Mississippi, to be lynched before hundreds of white spectators.

“Both victims were tied to a tree and forced to hold out their hands while members of the mob methodically chopped off their fingers and distributed them as souvenirs,” the report says. “Next, their ears were cut off. Mr. Holbert was then beaten so severely that his skull was fractured and one of his eyes was left hanging from its socket. Members of the mob used a large corkscrew to bore holes into the victims’ bodies and pull out large chunks of ‘quivering flesh,’ after which both victims were thrown onto a raging fire and burned. The white men, women, and children present watched the horrific murders while enjoying deviled eggs, lemonade, and whiskey in a picnic-like atmosphere.”

As the EJI notes, lynchings didn’t only harm the victims of the terror—they harmed white people too.

“The psychological harm inflicted by the era of terror lynching extends to the millions of white men, women, and children who instigated, attended, celebrated, and internalized these horrific spectacles of collective violence,” the report states. “Participation in collective violence leaves perpetrators with their own dangerous and persistent damage, including harmful defense mechanisms such as ‘diminish[ed] empathy for victims’ that can lead to intensified violent behaviors that target victims outside the original group. Lynching was a civic duty of white Southern men that brought them praise. Southern white children were taught to embrace traumatic violence and the racist narratives underlying it.”

Demonstrating how purposeful these acts of terror were, the EJI notes that just eight years after a 1912 lynching in Forsyth County, Georgia—after white vigilantes distributed leaflets demanding that all Black people leave the county or suffer deadly consequences—by 1920, the county’s Black population had plunged from 1,100 to just 30.

As all of these incredibly brutal acts were occurring, American government was silent. Congress never passed an anti-lynching bill, instead capitulating to Southern politicians who argued that such bills were racial “favoritism” and a violation of states’ rights. Southern states even passed their own anti-lynching laws to show the federal government that federal legislation was unnecessary—but these states refused to enforce them. In fact, during this prolonged period, not a single white person was convicted of murder for lynching a Black person in America and just 1 percent resulted in a lyncher being convicted of a criminal offense.

But African-Americans didn’t just stand idly by and take it without fighting back. There were courageous efforts to combat the lynchings through grassroots activism.

“Black people targeted members of white lynch mobs for economic retaliation by boycotting their businesses, refusing to work for them, and setting fire to their property,” the EJI notes. “To thwart lynching attempts, black people risked serious harm to hide fugitives, organized sentinels to guard prisoners against lynch mobs, and engaged in armed self-defense.”

The NAACP was actually created in response to racial attacks in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908 that shocked Northerners and demonstrated that lynching was not only a Southern phenomenon.


What people are saying

50 thoughts on “New Report Compiles A Devastating Count of Nearly 4,000 Lynchings of Black People in the US, Showing This Form of White Terrorism Had Profound Impact on American History

  1. Not a good look, White people? Should we believe the Native Americans or you? The picture speaks for itself.

  2. Right talk to me about real terrorism from now on…As it is said everything starts from home –

  3. sad and bad..but from a different era..and by the way..more whites have been murdered by blacks since the 1990s than all of the blacks killed by whites. Many of you act like bigotry goes one way. Some of the same people who whine about racial crimes many years ago refuse to even recognize that the black panthers are every bit as bad as the kkk..and black racists are every bit as bad as white say otherwise is hypocritical and contradictory. If many of you truly believe in racial harmony, then apply the same standard..i.e. be fair. Also, the negative depiction of modern day southerners and rural people in particular is just as bigoted. The term "redneck" is just as offensive as the awful word "nigger." No difference. Racism and bigotry is wrong..regardless of which group does it. Let's be fair.

  4. Wow , do you see all of the smiling faces? Hitler and his nazis were hunted down for the holocaust but this is only a page in Americas history.

  5. God thank you for exposing all the fake Christians who pretend to represent Christ, but are really racist bigots and terrorists.

  6. Ja Milburn says:

    I know right all those ignorant people from 1900 should die right

  7. It so important our young to KNOW their history, I was born and PARTLY raise in Mississippi in the 40TH, I know what it like For Black people,

  8. He that takes one's soul will perpetually sleep with their eyes open.

  9. Matt Peters says:

    Ja Milburn Do you actually think that there aren't people that would do this again if we had a weaker government like in the Middle East? Do you actually think the KKK wouldn't be the American ISIS? If you do you're deranged.

  10. I would like if just one of the monsters watching still living today. I am sure someone is still living in this photo. I really would like someone remember just one name. Lets call them out for the behavioral in the past. A person need to be accountable for their action in the past. I am so sick of people killing black male and get away murder as it prove to be true in this photo..

  11. Jamal Vance says:

    I disagree that the Whites doing these lynchings were equally psycologically traumatized. If that were so, then they would not have continued doing it. They were out there having lemonade!! This is an obvious attempt to level the playing field a bit, and here we are talking about human beings being mutilated to death. The White man has wanted everything that Black people have ever had, even our body parts. I could careless about Whites being psycologically traumatized.

  12. Joe Mason says:

    People this is old news. Move on and get the fuck over it. Last time I checked I haven't killed any Indian or black person. Quit the race batwing and understand that you need to quit blaming white people for every little boo how in your life.

  13. Joe Mason says:

    People this is old news. Move on and get the fuck over it. Last time I checked I haven't killed any Indian or black person. Quit the race batwing and understand that you need to quit blaming white people for every little boo how in your life.

  14. Joe Mason says:

    OK my typing sucks ass . boo hoo . and race bateing

  15. Ja Milburn says:

    My response was to the generalization that Christians are fake that if your a Christian then your racists and a bigot terrorist

  16. Race bating you say? You refuse to acknowledge your Barbarian history. What was done in the dark is coming to light, Their proof about who the real savages.

  17. It's obvious the definition of race baiting just goes over the head of a racist, especially when the damn truth is right in your face. When you are raised with this hatred, you don't want to admit there's a problem, this animalism is in your nature.

  18. All races have shameful historys just like every person has a shameful past. Only by believing in Jesus, confessing our sins to him and repenting (being sorry) are we forgiven and free.

  19. Joe Mason says:

    Yes there is proof of the past hint hint past and its not my history darling im Irish you guys should learn to look to the future if possible

  20. 4,000 Negroes lynched? Please.. Before the 1950s, 95% of Negroes murdered in this country were by whites. Since the 1960s, when Negroes, coloreds, people of color, and Mulattoes chose to become a Black people, Blacks have murdered several million — that's millions — of their own people.

    So today, the biggest threat to Blacks, are Blacks — period the end!

    The Disease Called Blackness – an essay – here:

  21. Corey Geiger says:

    Sandra Shipp-Wilson The pressure to stop talking about it always lies on the transgressed, never the transgressor.

  22. That is for only for those recorded. I remember my great grandmother say most weren't even accounted for or covered up. Those figured are skewed.

  23. Mike Lamb says:

    Why are you guys arguing with this fatigue wearing read neck abject…. he only has 46 friends on fb… says alot about his social position! Lol.

  24. No surprise the Nazis said that no jews were killed or that 6 million were not killed.

  25. I agree with you in looking to the future. Well also know that if you don't know your history you are bound to repeat it or they will. The Jews say never forget! but that does not apply to the black holocaust , hmmm I wonder why? Read the second sentence again!

  26. I don't believe that count is accurate at all! It was widely know that Black people could be and Was Lynched just because…….. Whatever evil desire struck the whites whether it was pure and simple Hate or just fun and games! They could just commit these atrocities and face absolutely NO CONSEQUENCES JUST AS IT IS TODAY!! Only difference being today they often times get Authorization and Pay for their Barbarous Behavior!

  27. Corey Geigerour history books do state that England sent their criminals, mental unstable and homeless here to the America to get them out of England. Now we don't have to guess what became of those criminals and mental unstable. They became slave owners.

  28. Joe Mason says:

    Wow 46 friends that hurt lol… Yes history is bound to repeat itself again. And history also shows that Africans sold Africans to the English. What's that say about your history ??? As I also said I'm Irish we don't have a history with the slave issue or lynching drama occurring at the moment. Ow and if anyone is curious about your history look at your present. Welfare is at an all time high in the black community. A teen is killed in furguson and to honor him you burn down your businesses. Yeah fix your present before you bitch about your past

  29. Makes me so ashamed and embarrassed of my race. I'm white hut have 4 mixed children from my black husband. They would have lynched me right along with a black person…therefore I have felt "what I feel black is" for many many years now. But I am proud….most of the time. Until I realize what my white ancestors did….and do…bc trust and believe it's not all dead. So sad.

  30. Psalm 109:14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

  31. Jeremiah 32:18 Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name,

  32. Nasir Ma'at says:

    My dude threw a rock into a crowd "fake Christians" and I guess Ja Milburn got hit! Lol!

  33. Georgia Johnson Don't argue with this fool. He's ashamed.

  34. Peggy Carey says:

    Ja Milburn you have to remember you first logic problem "Does the statement all the fake Christians mean all Christians are fake?" The answer is obviously 'no'. The same is true from a grammatical point of view. There is no way to explain, excuse, or differentiate lynching. It is a horrible stain on our national honor as is the genocide of Native Americans. To try to place it in the past to make in minimal does a disservice to the victims and their families, and dishonors your self. Sometimes you have to remain silent and feel sorrow.

  35. Peggy Carey says:

    Your reply is non sequiter. The article does not refer to the period of 1960 through the present. What is your point?

  36. Peggy Carey Thank you for the question Peggy. The very fact that this article exists – requires the response above. That there were 4,000 lynchings between 1877 & 1950 has absolutely no value today, what-so-ever, unless it is compared to the fact that so-called Black people took over, and became soo much more efficient at murdering and destroying each other than any white racist, KKK, negro hating society of the past.

    Please… 4,000 blacks will be murdered by blacks this year alone — hundreds of thousands more will be shot, stabbed, beaten, robbed, addicted to drugs, dissed, played, and live to see the quality of their lives deminished by their so-called brothers and sisters.

    What's my point? Black Culture has become the sympathetic embracement of white racist ideology that has made the violence and hatred of the past against them, seem like child's play.

    The quote below was supposed to refer to whites who witnessed and participated in the lynchings, but it reads like an epitaph for so-called Blacks Culture today.

    “Participation in collective violence leaves perpetrators with their own dangerous and persistent damage, including harmful defense mechanisms such as ‘diminish[ed] empathy for victims’ that can lead to intensified violent behaviors that target victims outside the original group."

    That's my point! Have a nice day 🙂

  37. The last lynching was in 1978 in Minnesota for y'all information… And for those who think that this was a long time ago.

  38. Its important for our youth to know the history that we come from not to grow up and point fingers, but for us to become stronger as a nation. We can raise our kids with love in their hearts not hate.

  39. Seth Allison says:

    People should read Guns Germs and Steel. The actions of whites towards the rest of the human species is NOT from a biological superiority NOR is it from an inherent evil.. merely the geographic location in which the whites' culture formed allocated resources for the development of an advanced yet violent civilization. We're all from Africa, initially, and we're all biologically a very close knit species. There's less variation between any two humans in our 7 billion numbers than there are between any two chimps within their 200,000. Basically, we're all the same, skin color is a phenotype to a rather insignificant gene that basically controls d vitamin intake and sunburn protection.. What's different is CULTURE. We attached skin culture to these cultural differences to justify our actions. I think slavery and the subsequent violent treatment of blacks was nothing short of a holocaust, and we're not out of the woods yet.. People who would rather *not* accept our cultural differences and would like to for everyone to act exactly the same to solve modern racial tensions are essentially wanting to forget these atrocities(ever hear old white people complain that african americans 'deserve' their plight basically because of how they dress and talk?) They are also assuming blame on African Americans, essentially saying that they deserved what happened to them because they are different and that they deserve the continued treatment because they will not culturally conform (think, the whole 'He deserved it because he was wearing a hoodie' argument..really no different than forcing natives to dress like whites and speak english in the boarding schools of old). Rather, it is essential that we DO NOT forget the past and also embrace our differences so that we do not regress into this barbaric behavior, which we are all obviously capable of still.

  40. Jay Hyland says:

    Okay, considering this article, what is the fix? What is the mechanism to cope with our history? What should be done to heal the wounds?

  41. Where in Minnesota David?

  42. It happened in Duluth Minnesota…

  43. Mike Ceezy says:

    Understanding how a black man can kill another black man, get caught, prosecuted and imprisoned for years for that crime. Vs. A Black being killed (lynched) by a mob of hundreds in broad daylight on a courthouse lawn, with no one being prosecuted or jailed. Black on black crime is a problem that fails in comparison. With 4000 lynched it's as if there's were 400,000 murders roaming free.

  44. Peggy Carey No reasoning with morons Peggy. Dont engage the trolls.

  45. Matt Peters why would you lump ISIS in with the KKK. iSIS was born because of occupation in the Middle East,the Klan was born out of ignorance and racial hatred. The two can never be equal.

  46. it was past but black is president now forger what the black were

  47. Robert Baden says:

    Suppose it depends on how you define lynching. James Byrd was dragged to death in Texas in 1998

  48. I think the number was much larger, it is not like the colonials were bothering to arrest or charge anyone for these murders, and I doubt they kept an accurate number of the number of black people killed like this. This was a time when whites could rape, beat and murder us at will. The real number is either unknown or purposely being hidden so as to protect Americas already tarnished historical and global image. Just as we will never know the exact number of Native Americans murdered by the colonials. Could be ten times this number for all we really know.

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