front cover of American Atrocity
American Atrocity
The Types of Violence in Lynching
Guy Lancaster
University of Arkansas Press, 2021

Lynching is often viewed as a narrow form of violence: either the spontaneous act of an angry mob against accused individuals, or a demonstration of white supremacy against an entire population considered subhuman. However, in this new treatise, historian Guy Lancaster exposes the multiple forms of violence hidden beneath the singular label of lynching.

Lancaster, who has written extensively on racial violence, details several lynchings of Blacks by white posses in post-Reconstruction Arkansas. Drawing from the fields of history, philosophy, cognitive science, sociology, and literary theory, and quoting chilling contemporary accounts, he argues that the act of lynching encompasses five distinct but overlapping types of violence. This new framework reveals lynching to be even more of an atrocity than previously understood: that mobs did not disregard the humanity of their victims but rather reveled in it; that they were not simply enacting personal vengeance but manifesting an elite project of subjugation. Lancaster thus clarifies and connects the motives and goals of seemingly isolated lynch mobs, embedding the practice in the ongoing enforcement of white supremacy. By interrogating the substance of lynching, American Atrocity shines new light on both past anti-Black violence and the historical underpinnings of our present moment.

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Borderland Apocrypha
Anthony Cody
Omnidawn, 2019
The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo marked an end to the Mexican—American War, but it sparked a series of lynchings of Mexicans and subsequent erasures, and long-lasting traumas. This pattern of state-sanctioned violence committed towards communities of color continues to the present day. Borderland Apocrypha centers around the collective histories of these terrors, excavating the traumas born of turbulence at borderlands. In this debut collection, Anthony Cody responds to the destabilized, hostile landscapes and silenced histories of borderlands. His experimental poetic reinvents itself and shapeshifts in both form and space across the margin, the page, and the book in forms of resistance, signaling a reclamation and a re-occupation of what has been omitted. The poems ask the reader to engage in searching through the nested and cascading series of poems centered around familial and communal histories, structural racism, and natural ecosystems of borderlands. Relentless in its explorations, this collection shows how the past continues to inform actions, policies, and perceptions in North and Central America.

Rather than a proposal for re-imagining the US/Mexico border, Cody’s collection is an avant-garde examination of how borderlands have remained occupied spaces, and of the necessity of liberation to usher the earth and its people toward healing. Part auto-historia, part docu-poetic, part visual monument, part myth-making, Borderland Apocrypha unearths history in order to work toward survival, reckoning, and the building of a future that both acknowledges and moves on from tragedies of the past.

Borderland Apocrypha won Omnidawn's 2018 1st/2nd Book Prize.
 
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Bullets and Fire
Lynching and Authority in Arkansas, 1840-1950
Guy Lancaster
University of Arkansas Press, 2017
Bullets and Fire is the first collection on lynching in Arkansas, exploring all corners of the state from the time of slavery up to the mid-twentieth century and covering stories of the perpetrators, victims, and those who fought against vigilante violence.

Among the topics discussed are the lynching of slaves, the Arkansas Council of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, the 1927 lynching of John Carter in Little Rock, and the state’s long opposition to a federal anti-lynching law.

Throughout, the work reveals how the phenomenon of lynching—as the means by which a system of white supremacy reified itself, with its perpetrators rarely punished and its defenders never condemned—served to construct authority in Arkansas. Bullets and Fire will add depth to the growing body of literature on American lynching and integrate a deeper understanding of this violence into Arkansas history.
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Death at Cross Plains
An Alabama Reconstruction Tragedy
Gene L. Howard
University of Alabama Press, 1994
Reconstruction in the South is a much studied and yet little understood dark epoch in the region’s history; in many areas it was marked by such violence as to have been in all but name guerrilla warfare. Death at Cross Plains is the history of one such clash, and the story of one of its casualties—William Luke.
 
Luke, born in Ireland, was a former Canadian minister fleeing a checkered past and perhaps seeking to redeem himself by service to the black freedmen of northern Alabama. In 1869 he took a teaching post at Talladega College, the only school for blacks in the area. Later taking the position of schoolteacher to the black railroad workers near Talladega, Luke found himself enmeshed in the web of racial antagonisms, xenophobia, and partisan conflict rampant in much of the South
 
Death at Cross Plains follows the tragic course of William Luke’s life and death and vividly depicts the hatreds and failures that plunged the South into its darkest days.
 
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The End of American Lynching
Ashraf H. A. Rushdy
Rutgers University Press, 2012

The End of American Lynching questions how we think about the dynamics of lynching, what lynchings mean to the society in which they occur, how lynching is defined, and the circumstances that lead to lynching. Ashraf H. A. Rushdy looks at three lynchings over the course of the twentieth century—one in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, in 1911, one in Marion, Indiana, in 1930, and one in Jasper, Texas, in 1998—to see how Americans developed two distinct ways of thinking and talking about this act before and after the 1930s.

One way takes seriously the legal and moral concept of complicity as a way to understand the dynamics of a lynching; this way of thinking can give us new perceptions into the meaning of mobs and the lynching photographs in which we find them. Another way, which developed in the 1940s and continues to influence us today, uses a strategy of denial to claim that lynchings have ended. Rushdy examines how the denial of lynching emerged and developed, providing insight into how and why we talk about lynching the way we do at the dawn of the twenty-first century.  In doing so, he forces us to confront our responsibilities as American citizens and as human beings.

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A Festival of Violence
An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930
Stewart Tolnay and E.M. Beck
University of Illinois Press, 1995
This finely detailed statistical study of lynching in ten southern states shows that economic and status concerns were at the heart of that violent
practice. Stewart Tolnay and E. M. Beck empirically test competing explanations of the causes of lynching, using U.S. Census and historical voting data and a newly constructed inventory of southern lynch victims. Among their surprising findings: lynching responded to fluctuations in the price of cotton, decreasing in frequency when prices rose and increasing when they fell.
 
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Flames after Midnight
Murder, Vengeance, and the Desolation of a Texas Community, Revised Edition
By Monte Akers
University of Texas Press, 2011

What happened in Kirven, Texas, in May 1922, has been forgotten by the outside world. It was a coworker's whispered words, "Kirven is where they burned the [Negroes]," that set Monte Akers to work at discovering the true story behind a young white woman's brutal murder and the burning alive of three black men who were almost certainly innocent of it. This was followed by a month-long reign of terror as white men killed blacks while local authorities concealed the real identity of the white probable murderers and allowed them to go free.

Writing nonfiction with the skill of a novelist, Akers paints a vivid portrait of a community desolated by race hatred and its own refusal to face hard truths. He sets this tragedy within the story of a region prospering from an oil boom but plagued by lawlessness, and traces the lynching's repercussions down the decades to the present day. In the new epilogue, Akers adds details that have come to light as a result of the book's publication, including an eyewitness account of the burnings from an elderly man who claimed to have castrated two of the men before they were lynched.

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Global Lynching and Collective Violence
Volume 1: Asia, Africa, and the Middle East
Edited by Michael J. Pfeifer
University of Illinois Press, 2017
Often considered peculiarly American, lynching in fact takes place around the world. In the first book of a two-volume study, Michael J. Pfeifer collects essays that look at lynching and related forms of collective violence in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Understanding lynching as a transnational phenomenon rooted in political and cultural flux, the writers probe important issues from Indonesia--where a long history of public violence now twines with the Internet--to South Africa, with its notorious history of necklacing. Other scholars examine lynching in medieval Nepal, the epidemic of summary executions in late Qing-era China, the merging of state-sponsored and local collective violence during the Nanking Massacre, and the ways public anger and lynching in India relate to identity, autonomy, and territory. Contributors: Laurens Bakker, Shaiel Ben-Ephraim, Nandana Dutta, Weiting Guo, Or Honig, Frank Jacob, Michael J. Pfeifer, Yogesh Raj, and Nicholas Rush Smith.
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A Hanging in Nacogdoches
Murder, Race, Politics, and Polemics in Texas's Oldest Town, 1870-1916
By Gary B. Borders
University of Texas Press, 2006

On October 17, 1902, in Nacogdoches, Texas, a black man named James Buchanan was tried without representation, condemned, and executed for the murder of a white family—all in the course of three hours. Two white men played pivotal roles in these events: Bill Haltom, a leading local Democrat and the editor of the Nacogdoches Sentinel, who condemned lynching but defended lynch mobs, and A. J. Spradley, a Populist sheriff who, with the aid of hundreds of state militiamen, barely managed to keep the mob from burning Buchanan alive, only to escort him to the gallows following his abbreviated trial. Each man's story serves to illuminate a part of the path that led to the terrible parody of justice which lies at the heart of A Hanging in Nacogdoches.

The turn of the twentieth century was a time of dramatic change for the people of East Texas. Frightened by the Populist Party's attempts to unite poor blacks and whites in a struggle for economic justice, white Democrats defended their power base by exploiting racial tensions in a battle that ultimately resulted in the complete disenfranchisement of the black population of East Texas. In telling the story of a single lynching, Gary Borders dramatically illustrates the way politics and race combined to bring horrific violence to small southern towns like Nacogdoches.

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Legacies Of Lynching
Racial Violence And Memory
Jonathan Markovitz
University of Minnesota Press, 2004

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Lethal Punishment
Lynchings and Legal Executions in the South
Vandiver, Margaret
Rutgers University Press, 2005

Why did some offenses in the South end in mob lynchings while similar crimes led to legal executions? Why did still other cases have nonlethal outcomes? In this well-researched and timely book, Margaret Vandiver explores the complex relationship between these two forms of lethal punishment, challenging the assumption that executions consistently grew out of-and replaced-lynchings.

Vandiver begins by examining the incidence of these practices in three culturally and geographically distinct southern regions. In rural northwest Tennessee, lynchings outnumbered legal executions by eleven to one and many African Americans were lynched for racial caste offenses rather than for actual crimes. In contrast, in Shelby County, which included the growing city of Memphis, more men were legally executed than lynched. Marion County, Florida, demonstrated a firmly entrenched tradition of lynching for sexual assault that ended in the early 1930s with three legal death sentences in quick succession.

With a critical eye to issues of location, circumstance, history, and race, Vandiver considers the ways that legal and extralegal processes imitated, influenced, and differed from each other. A series of case studies demonstrates a parallel between mock trials that were held by lynch mobs and legal trials that were rushed through the courts and followed by quick executions.

Tying her research to contemporary debates over the death penalty, Vandiver argues that modern death sentences, like lynchings of the past, continue to be influenced by factors of race and place, and sentencing is comparably erratic.

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Living with Lynching
African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930
Koritha Mitchell
University of Illinois Press, 2012
Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890–1930 demonstrates that popular lynching plays were mechanisms through which African American communities survived actual and photographic mob violence. Often available in periodicals, lynching plays were read aloud or acted out by black church members, schoolchildren, and families. Koritha Mitchell shows that African Americans performed and read the scripts in community settings to certify to each other that lynching victims were not the isolated brutes that dominant discourses made them out to be. Instead, the play scripts often described victims as honorable heads of households being torn from model domestic units by white violence.

In closely analyzing the political and spiritual uses of black theatre during the Progressive Era, Mitchell demonstrates that audiences were shown affective ties in black families, a subject often erased in mainstream images of African Americans. Examining lynching plays as archival texts that embody and reflect broad networks of sociocultural activism and exchange in the lives of black Americans, Mitchell finds that audiences were rehearsing and improvising new ways of enduring in the face of widespread racial terrorism. Images of the black soldier, lawyer, mother, and wife helped readers assure each other that they were upstanding individuals who deserved the right to participate in national culture and politics. These powerful community coping efforts helped African Americans band together and withstand the nation's rejection of them as viable citizens.

The Left of Black interview with author Koritha Mitchell begins at 14:00.

An interview with Koritha Mitchell at The Ohio Channel.

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Lynching and Leisure
Race and the Transformation of Mob Violence in Texas
Terry Anne Scott
University of Arkansas Press, 2022
Winner, 2022 Ottis Lock Endowment “Best Book” Award from the East Texas Historical Association

In Lynching and Leisure, Terry Anne Scott examines how white Texans transformed lynching from a largely clandestine strategy of extralegal punishment into a form of racialized recreation in which crowd involvement was integral to the mode and methods of the violence. Scott powerfully documents how lynchings came to function not only as tools for debasing the status of Black people but also as highly anticipated occasions for entertainment, making memories with friends and neighbors, and reifying whiteness. In focusing on the sense of pleasure and normality that prevailed among the white spectatorship, this comprehensive study of Texas lynchings sheds new light on the practice understood as one of the chief strategies of racial domination in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century South.
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Lynching Beyond Dixie
American Mob Violence Outside the South
Edited by Michael J. Pfeifer
University of Illinois Press, 2013
 
In recent decades, scholars have explored much of the history of mob violence in the American South, especially in the years after Reconstruction. However, the lynching violence that occurred in American regions outside the South, where hundreds of persons, including Hispanics, whites, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans died at the hands of lynch mobs, has received less attention. This collection of essays by prominent and rising scholars fills this gap by illuminating the factors that distinguished lynching in the West, the Midwest, and the Mid-Atlantic. The volume adds to a more comprehensive history of American lynching and will be of interest to all readers interested in the history of violence across the varied regions of the United States.
 
Contributors are Jack S. Blocker Jr., Brent M. S. Campney, William D. Carrigan, Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua, Dennis B. Downey, Larry R. Gerlach, Kimberley Mangun, Helen McLure, Michael J. Pfeifer, Christopher Waldrep, Clive Webb, and Dena Lynn Winslow.

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Lynching in Colorado, 1859-1919
Stephen J. Leonard
University Press of Colorado, 2022
In this examination of more than 175 lynchings, Stephen J. Leonard illustrates the role economics, migration, race, and gender played in shaping justice and injustice in Colorado. One of the first comprehensive studies of the phenomenon in a Western state, the book has been an essential complement to studies of Southern lynchings, demonstrating that at times the land of purple mountain’s majesty was just as lynching-prone as the land of Dixie. Lynching in Colorado, 1859-1919 shows Westerners at their worst and their best as they struggled to define law and order.
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Lynching in the New South
Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930
W. Fitzhugh Brundage
University of Illinois Press, 1993
Lynching was a national crime. But it obsessed the South. W. Fitzhugh Brundage's multidisciplinary approach to the complex nature of lynching delves into the such extrajudicial murders in two states: Virginia, the southern state with the fewest lynchings; and Georgia, where 460 lynchings made the state a measure of race relations in the Deep South. Brundage's analysis addresses three central questions: How can we explain variations in lynching over regions and time periods? To what extent was lynching a social ritual that affirmed traditional white values and white supremacy? And, what were the causes of the decline of lynching at the end of the 1920s?

A groundbreaking study, Lynching in the New South is a classic portrait of the tradition of violence that poisoned American life.

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Lynching in the West
1850-1935
Ken Gonzales-Day
Duke University Press, 2006
Accounts of lynching in the United States have primarily focused on violence against African Americans in the South. Ken Gonzales-Day reveals racially motivated lynching as a more widespread practice. His research uncovered 350 instances of lynching that occurred in the state of California between 1850 and 1935. The majority were perpetrated against Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans; more Latinos were lynched in California than were persons of any other race or ethnicity.

An artist and writer, Gonzales-Day began this study by photographing lynching sites in order to document the absences and empty spaces that are emblematic of the forgotten history of lynching in the West. Drawing on newspaper articles, periodicals, court records, historical photographs, and souvenir postcards, he attempted to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding the lynchings that had occurred in the spaces he was photographing. The result is an unprecedented textual and visual record of a largely unacknowledged manifestation of racial violence in the United States. Including sixteen color illustrations, Lynching in the West juxtaposes Gonzales-Day’s evocative contemporary photographs of lynching sites with dozens of historical images.

Gonzales-Day examines California’s history of lynching in relation to the spectrum of extra-legal vigilantism common during the nineteenth century—from vigilante committees to lynch mobs—and in relation to race-based theories of criminality. He explores the role of visual culture as well, reflecting on lynching as spectacle and the development of lynching photography. Seeking to explain why the history of lynching in the West has been obscured until now, Gonzales-Day points to popular misconceptions of frontier justice as race-neutral and to the role of the anti-lynching movement in shaping the historical record of lynching in the United States.

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Making Monsters
The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization
David Livingstone Smith
Harvard University Press, 2021

Shortlisted for the Nayef Al-Rodhan Book Prize.

A leading scholar explores what it means to dehumanize others—and how and why we do it.

“I wouldn’t have accepted that they were human beings. You would see an infant who’s just learning to smile, and it smiles at you, but you still kill it.” So a Hutu man explained to an incredulous researcher, when asked to recall how he felt slaughtering Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. Such statements are shocking, yet we recognize them; we hear their echoes in accounts of genocides, massacres, and pogroms throughout history. How do some people come to believe that their enemies are monsters, and therefore easy to kill?

In Making Monsters David Livingstone Smith offers a poignant meditation on the philosophical and psychological roots of dehumanization. Drawing on harrowing accounts of lynchings, Smith establishes what dehumanization is and what it isn’t. When we dehumanize our enemy, we hold two incongruous beliefs at the same time: we believe our enemy is at once subhuman and fully human. To call someone a monster, then, is not merely a resort to metaphor—dehumanization really does happen in our minds. Turning to an abundance of historical examples, Smith explores the relationship between dehumanization and racism, the psychology of hierarchy, what it means to regard others as human beings, and why dehumanizing others transforms them into something so terrifying that they must be destroyed.

Meticulous but highly readable, Making Monsters suggests that the process of dehumanization is deeply seated in our psychology. It is precisely because we are all human that we are vulnerable to the manipulations of those trading in the politics of demonization and violence.

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front cover of The Making of a Lynching Culture
The Making of a Lynching Culture
Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916
William D. Carrigan
University of Illinois Press, 2006

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MEN AND VIOLENCE
GENDER, HONOR, AND RITUALS IN MODERN EUROPE AND AMERICA
PIETER SPIERENBURG
The Ohio State University Press, 1998
There is growing interest in the history of masculinity and male culture, including violence, as an integral part of a proper understanding of gender. In almost every historical setting, masculinity and violence are closely linked; certainly, violent crime has been overwhelmingly a male enterprise. But violence is not always criminal: in many cultural contexts violence is linked instead to honor and encoded in rituals. We possess only an imperfect understanding of the ways in which aggressive behavior, or the abstention from aggressive behavior, contributes to the construction of masculinity and male honor. In this collection, internationally renowned expert Pieter Spierenburg brings together eight scholars to explore the fascinating interrelationship of masculinity, honor, and the body.
            The essays focus on the United States and western Europe from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. The contributors are Ute Frevert, Steven Hughes, Robert Nye, Daniele Boschi, Amy Sophia Greenberg, Martin J. Wiener, Stephen Kantrowitz, and Terence Finnegan. Men and Violence will be welcomed and widely used by a broad range of scholars and students.
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Men, Mobs, and Law
Anti-Lynching and Labor Defense in U.S. Radical History
Rebecca N. Hill
Duke University Press, 2008
In Men, Mobs, and Law, Rebecca N. Hill compares two seemingly unrelated types of leftist protest campaigns: those intended to defend labor organizers from prosecution and those seeking to memorialize lynching victims and stop the practice of lynching. Arguing that these forms of protest are related and have substantially influenced one another, Hill points out that both worked to build alliances through appeals to public opinion in the media, by defining the American state as a force of terror, and by creating a heroic identity for their movements. Each has played a major role in the history of radical politics in the United States. Hill illuminates that history by considering the narratives produced during the abolitionist John Brown’s trials and execution, analyzing the defense of the Chicago anarchists of the Haymarket affair, and comparing Ida B. Wells’s and the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaigns to the Industrial Workers of the World’s early-twentieth-century defense campaigns. She also considers conflicts within the campaign to defend Sacco and Vanzetti, chronicles the history of the Communist Party’s International Labor Defense, and explores the Black Panther Party’s defense of George Jackson.

As Hill explains, labor defense activists first drew on populist logic, opposing the masses to the state in their campaigns, while anti-lynching activists went in the opposite direction, castigating “the mob” and appealing to the law. Showing that this difference stems from the different positions of whites and Blacks in the American legal system, Hill’s comparison of anti-lynching organizing and radical labor defenses reveals the conflicts and intersections between antiracist struggle and socialism in the United States.

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Ripe for Revolution
Building Socialism in the Third World
Jeremy Friedman
Harvard University Press, 2021

A historical account of ideology in the Global South as the postwar laboratory of socialism, its legacy following the Cold War, and the continuing influence of socialist ideas worldwide.

In the first decades after World War II, many newly independent Asian and African countries and established Latin American states pursued a socialist development model. Jeremy Friedman traces the socialist experiment over forty years through the experience of five countries: Indonesia, Chile, Tanzania, Angola, and Iran.

These states sought paths to socialism without formal adherence to the Soviet bloc or the programs that Soviets, East Germans, Cubans, Chinese, and other outsiders tried to promote. Instead, they attempted to forge new models of socialist development through their own trial and error, together with the help of existing socialist countries, demonstrating the flexibility and adaptability of socialism. All five countries would become Cold War battlegrounds and regional models, as new policies in one shaped evolving conceptions of development in another. Lessons from the collapse of democracy in Indonesia were later applied in Chile, just as the challenge of political Islam in Indonesia informed the policies of the left in Iran. Efforts to build agrarian economies in West Africa influenced Tanzania’s approach to socialism, which in turn influenced the trajectory of the Angolan model.

Ripe for Revolution shows socialism as more adaptable and pragmatic than often supposed. When we view it through the prism of a Stalinist orthodoxy, we miss its real effects and legacies, both good and bad. To understand how socialism succeeds and fails, and to grasp its evolution and potential horizons, we must do more than read manifestos. We must attend to history.

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The Roots of Rough Justice
Origins of American Lynching
Michael J. Pfeifer
University of Illinois Press, 2014
In this deeply researched prequel to his 2006 study Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874–1947, Michael J. Pfeifer analyzes the foundations of lynching in American social history. Scrutinizing the vigilante movements and lynching violence that occurred in the middle decades of the nineteenth century on the Southern, Midwestern, and far Western frontiers, The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching offers new insights into collective violence in the pre-Civil War era.
 
Pfeifer examines the antecedents of American lynching in an early modern Anglo-European folk and legal heritage. He addresses the transformation of ideas and practices of social ordering, law, and collective violence in the American colonies, the early American Republic, and especially the decades before and immediately after the American Civil War. His trenchant and concise analysis anchors the first book to consider the crucial emergence of the practice of lynching of slaves in antebellum America. Pfeifer also leads the way in analyzing the history of American lynching in a global context, from the early modern British Atlantic to the legal status of collective violence in contemporary Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
 
Seamlessly melding source material with apt historical examples, The Roots of Rough Justice tackles the emergence of not only the rhetoric surrounding lynching, but its practice and ideology. Arguing that the origins of lynching cannot be restricted to any particular region, Pfeifer shows how the national and transatlantic context is essential for understanding how whites used mob violence to enforce the racial and class hierarchies across the United States.
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Rough Justice
Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947
Michael J. Pfeifer
University of Illinois Press, 2004

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Southern Horrors
Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching
Crystal N. Feimster
Harvard University Press, 2011

Between 1880 and 1930, close to 200 women were murdered by lynch mobs in the American South. Many more were tarred and feathered, burned, whipped, or raped. In this brutal world of white supremacist politics and patriarchy, a world violently divided by race, gender, and class, black and white women defended themselves and challenged the male power brokers. Crystal Feimster breaks new ground in her story of the racial politics of the postbellum South by focusing on the volatile issue of sexual violence.

Pairing the lives of two Southern women—Ida B. Wells, who fearlessly branded lynching a white tool of political terror against southern blacks, and Rebecca Latimer Felton, who urged white men to prove their manhood by lynching black men accused of raping white women—Feimster makes visible the ways in which black and white women sought protection and political power in the New South. While Wells was black and Felton was white, both were journalists, temperance women, suffragists, and anti-rape activists. By placing their concerns at the center of southern politics, Feimster illuminates a critical and novel aspect of southern racial and sexual dynamics. Despite being on opposite sides of the lynching question, both Wells and Felton sought protection from sexual violence and political empowerment for women.

Southern Horrors provides a startling view into the Jim Crow South where the precarious and subordinate position of women linked black and white anti-rape activists together in fragile political alliances. It is a story that reveals how the complex drama of political power, race, and sex played out in the lives of Southern women.

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The Spectacular City
Violence and Performance in Urban Bolivia
Daniel M. Goldstein
Duke University Press, 2004
Since the Bolivian revolution in 1952, migrants have come to the city of Cochabamba, seeking opportunity and relief from rural poverty. They have settled in barrios on the city’s outskirts only to find that the rights of citizens—basic rights of property and security, especially protection from crime—are not available to them. In this ethnography, Daniel M. Goldstein considers the significance of and similarities between two kinds of spectacles—street festivals and the vigilante lynching of criminals—as they are performed in the Cochabamba barrio of Villa Pagador. By examining folkloric festivals and vigilante violence within the same analytical framework, Goldstein shows how marginalized urban migrants, shut out of the city and neglected by the state, use performance to assert their national belonging and to express their grievances against the inadequacies of the state’s official legal order.

During the period of Goldstein’s fieldwork in Villa Pagador in the mid-1990s, residents attempted to lynch several thieves and attacked the police who tried to intervene. Since that time, there have been hundreds of lynchings in the poor barrios surrounding Cochabamba. Goldstein presents the lynchings of thieves as a form of horrific performance, with elements of critique and political action that echo those of local festivals. He explores the consequences and implications of extralegal violence for human rights and the rule of law in the contemporary Andes. In rich detail, he provides an in-depth look at the development of Villa Pagador and of the larger metropolitan area of Cochabamba, illuminating a contemporary Andean city from both microethnographic and macrohistorical perspectives. Focusing on indigenous peoples’ experiences of urban life and their attempts to manage their sociopolitical status within the broader context of neoliberal capitalism and political decentralization, The Spectacular City highlights the deep connections between performance, law, violence, and the state.

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A Spectacular Secret
Lynching in American Life and Literature
Jacqueline Goldsby
University of Chicago Press, 2006
This incisive study takes on one of the grimmest secrets in America's national life—the history of lynching and, more generally, the public punishment of African Americans. Jacqueline Goldsby shows that lynching cannot be explained away as a phenomenon peculiar to the South or as the perverse culmination of racist politics. Rather, lynching—a highly visible form of social violence that has historically been shrouded in secrecy—was in fact a fundamental part of the national consciousness whose cultural logic played a pivotal role in the making of American modernity.

To pursue this argument, Goldsby traces lynching's history by taking up select mob murders and studying them together with key literary works. She focuses on three prominent authors—Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Stephen Crane, and James Weldon Johnson—and shows how their own encounters with lynching influenced their analyses of it. She also examines a recently assembled archive of evidence—lynching photographs—to show how photography structured the nation's perception of lynching violence before World War I. Finally, Goldsby considers the way lynching persisted into the twentieth century, discussing the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 and the ballad-elegies of Gwendolyn Brooks to which his murder gave rise.

An empathic and perceptive work, A Spectacular Secret will make an important contribution to the study of American history and literature.
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Thirteen Loops
Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America
B. J. Hollars
University of Alabama Press, 2011
Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America recounts the story of three innocent victims, all of whom suffered violent deaths through no fault of their own: Vaudine Maddox in 1933 in Tuscaloosa, Sergeant Gene Ballard in 1979 in Birmingham, and Michael Donald in 1981 in Mobile.

The death of Vaudine Maddox—and the lynchings that followed—serves as a cautionary tale about the violence that occurred in the same region nearly fifty-years later, highlighting the cowardice, ignorance, and happenstance that sustained a culture of racial intolerance far into the future.Nearly half a century later, after a black bank robber was acquitted for the murder of police Sergeant Gene Ballard, two Klansmen took it upon themselves to exact revenge on an innocent victim--nineteen-year-old African American Michael Donald.  Donald's murder--deemed the last lynching in America--reignited the race debate in America and culminated in a courtroom drama in which the United Klans of America were at long last put on trial. 

While tracing the relationships among these murders, B. J. Hollars's research led him deep into the heart of Alabama’s racial, political, and legal landscapes.  A work of literary journalism, Thirteen Loops  draws upon rarely examined primary sources, court documents, newspaper reports, and first-hand accounts in an effort to unravel the twisted tale of a pair of interconnected murders that forever altered United States' race relations.
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front cover of Troubled Ground
Troubled Ground
A Tale of Murder, Lynching, and Reckoning in the New South
Claude A. Clegg III
University of Illinois Press, 2010
In Troubled Ground, Claude A. Clegg III revisits a violent episode in his hometown's history that made national headlines in the early twentieth century but disappeared from public consciousness over the decades. Moving swiftly between memory and history, between the personal and the political, Clegg offers insights into southern history, mob violence, and the formation of American race ideology while coming to terms on a personal level with the violence of the past.
 
Three black men were killed in front of a crowd of thousands in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1906, following the ax murder of a local white family for whom the men had worked. One of the lynchers was prosecuted for his role in the execution, the first conviction of its kind in North Carolina and one of the earliest in the country. Yet Clegg, an academic historian who grew up in Salisbury, had never heard of the case until 2002 and could not find anyone else familiar with the case.
 
In this book, Clegg mines newspaper accounts and government records and links the victims of the 1906 case to a double-lynching in 1902, suggesting a complex history of lynching in the area while revealing the determination of the city to rid its history of a shameful and shocking chapter. The result is a multi-layered, deeply personal exploration of lynching and lynching prosecutions in the United States.
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front cover of Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs
Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs
Narratives of Community and Nation
Lisa Arellano
Temple University Press, 2012

Looking at the narrative accounts of mob violence produced by vigilantes and  their advocates as “official” histories, Lisa Arellano shows how these nonfiction narratives conformed to a common formula whose purpose was to legitimate frontier justice and lynching.

In Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs, Arellano closely examines such narratives as well as the work of Western historian and archivist Hubert Howe Bancroft, who was sympathetic to them, and that of Ida B. Wells, who wrote in fierce opposition to lynching.  Tracing the creation, maintenance, and circulation of dominant, alternative, and oppositional vigilante stories from the nineteenth-century frontier through the Jim Crow South, she casts new light on the role of narrative in creating a knowable past.

Demonstrating how these histories ennobled the actions of mobs and rendered their leaders and members as heroes, Arellano presents a persuasive account of lynching’s power to create the conditions favorable to its own existence.

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front cover of White Man's Heaven
White Man's Heaven
The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, 1894-1909
Kimberly Harper
University of Arkansas Press, 2010
White Man's Heaven is the first book to investigate the lynching and expulsion of African Americans in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Kimberly Harper shows how an established tradition of extralegal violence and the rapid political, economic, and social change of the New South era combined to create an environment that resulted in interracial violence. Even though some whites tried to stop the violence and bring the lynchers to justice, many African Americans fled the Ozarks, leaving only a resilient few behind and forever changing the racial composition of the region.
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front cover of Witnessing Lynching
Witnessing Lynching
American Writers Respond
Edited by Anne P. Rice
Rutgers University Press, 2003

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.

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