EJI’S NEW LYNCHING REPORT DOCUMENTS AN ERA OF RACIAL TERRORISM
Equal Justice Initiative February 10, 2015
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) today released Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, which documents EJI’s multi-year investigation into lynching in twelve Southern states during the period between Reconstruction and World War II. EJI researchers documented 3959 racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950 – at least 700 more lynchings of black people in these states than previously reported in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date.
Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation. Lynchings were violent and public events that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. This was not “frontier justice” carried out by a few marginalized vigilantes or extremists. Instead, many African Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens) for bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person. People who participated in lynchings were celebrated and acted with impunity. Not a single white person was convicted of murder for lynching a black person in America during this period.
The report explores the ways in which lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the contemporary geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans. Most importantly, lynching reinforced a narrative of racial difference and a legacy of racial inequality that is readily apparent in our criminal justice system today. Mass incarceration, racially biased capital punishment, excessive sentencing, disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, and police abuse of people of color reveal problems in American society that were shaped by the terror era.
No prominent public memorial or monument commemorates the thousands of African Americans who were lynched in America. Lynching in America argues that is a powerful statement about our failure to value the black lives lost in this brutal campaign of racial violence. Research on mass violence, trauma, and transitional justice underscores the urgent need to engage in public conversations about racial history that begin a process of truth and reconciliation in this country.
“We cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “The geographic, political, economic, and social consequences of decades of terror lynchings can still be seen in many communities today and the damage created by lynching needs to be confronted and discussed. Only then can we meaningfully address the contemporary problems that are lynching’s legacy.”
- Atlanta Black Star: 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
- Atlanta Daily World: Nearly 4,000 Victims In Over 73 Years Of “Racial Terror Lynchings” In Jim Crow South
- Black Enterprise: 20th Century Lynchings Still Costing Black Millions – the Economic Legacy of Terror
- Bustle: History Of Lynching In The South Offers The United States An Opportunity to Talk About Its Uncomfortable Past
- Democracy Now: As Study Finds 4,000 Lynchings in Jim Crow South, Will U.S. Address Legacy of Racial Terrorism?
- Daily Kos: Report on Lynching in the US Shows Historical Numbers, Like Killings by Police, are Underreported
- Daily Mail: Jim Crow Lynchings Were More Common Than Thought with New Report Adding 700 More Murdered African Americans to Total of Nearly 4000
- Fayetteville Observer: Four-Year Project Records History of Racial Lynchings; Includes Cape Fear Region Incidents
- International Business Times: Black History Month 2015: Racial Justice Group Plans To Mark Thousands Of Sites Where Blacks Were Hanged
- National Catholic Reporter: Study Reassesses History of Lynching in American South, Calls for Monuments and Memorials
- New Times Broward-Palm Beach: Florida Lynched More Black People Per Capita Than Any Other State, According to Report
- Northstar News Today: Report: Nearly 4,000 African Americans Were Lynched in Acts of Terror by Whites
- Quartz: Why don’t Americans realize ISIL executions look awfully like the thousands of lynchings that happened on their soil?
- Raw Story: Racial Terrorism in America – Group Wants to Honor 4000 Lynching Victims with Historical Markers
- Time Warner Cable News, Charlotte: New Report Documents Nearly 4000 Lynchings in the South, 102 in North Carolina