Witnessing Lynching: American Writers Respond is the first anthology to gather poetry, essays, drama, and fiction from the height of the lynching era (1889–1935). During this time, the torture of a black person drew thousands of local onlookers and was replayed throughout the nation in lurid newspaper reports. The selections gathered here represent the courageous efforts of American writers to witness the trauma of lynching and to expose the truth about this uniquely American atrocity. Included are well-known authors and activists such as Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Ida B. Wells, and Theodore Dreiser, as well as many others. These writers respond to lynching in many different ways, using literature to protest and educate, to create a space of mourning in which to commemorate and rehumanize the dead, and as a cathartic release for personal and collective trauma. Their words provide today’s reader with a chance to witness lynching and better understand the current state of race relations in America.
An introduction by Anne P. Rice offers a broad historical and thematic framework to ground the selections.