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These pages provide information about the origins of lynching, statistics, pictures (which are on a separate page and may be disturbing to some people), reactions, anti-lynching efforts, and the history of the Ku Klux Klan.


Charles W. Chesnutt and Lynching:

In "Mandy Oxendine," a book by Charles Chesnutt, he wrote of the attempted lynching of Tom for the Murder of a white man named Bob.  The whole lynching scene was described very vividly, with one man who was bound to hang someone because he had just bought a new rope and he wanted to use it.  Chesnutt also refers to lynching in some of his other stories and being a black man in the 1800s, lynchings were of great concern to him.


The Origins and History of Lynching

    The term "lynch" originated because of the activities of Colonel Charles Lynch.  Lynch was a Colonel during the Revolutionary War who tried and punished the "Tories" after the was with no legal jurisdiction.  Lynch was a wealthy plantation owner from Virginia who headed up an extralegal court.  This "court" took the law into it's own hands and did not give the accused the right to trial.
    Lynchings did not always involve the death of the accused.  Before 1850, which is when lynching took an extremely violent turn, the victim was beaten.  After the 1850s the victims were treated with more brutality, and eventually the term lynching took on the the meaning we now associate with it - killing without legal cause.  After the Reconstruction era more and more lynchings began to occur.  During this time several black people were burned at the stake or hanged in the name of justice, justice in the mob's point of view anyway.
    In 1890, lynch mobs took another brutal step.  they began dismembering their black victims and selling their body parts for souvenirs.  An onlooker could buy a piece of dries bone for twenty-five cents, a dried piece of the victim's liver for a dime, or a whole finger or toe for a dollar.  the public lynchings drew in large crowds, eventually a huge recreational activity where entire families would come out to watch.  Railway companies would offer special rates and times to the crowds who wanted to view the lynchings.  Newspapers publicized the events offering dates and times for some lynchings.  There were even postcards depicting the bodies of lynched victims.  If you would like to see some of these pictures click on the images button at the bottom of the poage.  These are very graphic and may be offensive to some.
    If someone were to ask you what these victims were charged with, you would probably answer murder or rape.  Murder or rape would be true in some cases, but sadly this was not always the case.  Lynching victims were accused with a wide variety of charges most of which were not deserving of death.  the victims were lynched for arguing with white shopkeepers, or not addressing a white man with respect.  Some victims wee lynched for trying to get a job that was "above" their social standing.  Is looking at a white woman a crime punishable by murder? The lynch mobs seemed to think so.  Here is a table showing the number of people killed for specific "crimes" from 1889 to 1929.
    We have come a long way in the equality of all people, but lynchings still happen today in the twentieth century.  Jerome Byrd was a black man who was lynched in 1998.  He was dragged behind a pick-up truck until he eventually died.  This man was accused of no crime, he was murdered just because he was black.  Although we have come a long way in the strive for equality, the future is only as bright as we make it.  

Information was compiled from:
    The Encyclopedia of Southern History: 1979: Louisiana State University Press.: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
    Cutler, James E.: Lynch Law: 1905: Longmans, Green and Co.: New York, New York
    Whitfield, Stephen J.: The Tradegy of Lynching:  1933/69: New York, New York
    The Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History: 1996: Simon and Schuster MacMillian: New York, New York
    Williamson, Joel: The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation: 1984: New York, New York.
    Wells - Barnett, Ida B.: On Lynching: 1989: New York Arno Press: New York, New York