The Hangman’s Knot
Length: 1718 words (4.9 double-spaced pages)
I as well as many people don’t understand the symbolism of the the hangman’s knot or the history behind its uses. I have always came to understand that it was an offensive knot to others because of the lynchings going on during slavery time period. Even today the hangman’s knot still plays a role in modern hate crime acts; However the hangman’s knot dates back to as early as the 16th century. The brutality portrayed by the knot brings out many feelings among many different people, And with that causes many acts of violence and rage toward others. The hangman’s knot, or also known as noose is a hard subject for many African Americans to talk about or discuss. Because at the time of these crimes the African American race was looked down upon. They were treated like animals and were never given the least bit of respect, they were tortured, beaten, and then hanged. I can agree that if this happened to my ancestors I would be offended by the many things that used to happen, and the symbols that are used in hate crimes today.
The hangman’s knot is designed to be a slipknot that can be easily tightened but difficult or somewhat impossible to loosen depending on the number of friction wraps made into it. While researching this knot I’ve found out its very similar to a fishing knot used to tie hooks to microfilament line called a uni-knot. The hangman’s noose is also used on most marine watercraft as a life saving devise, which makes it very convenient to throw with the large mass on the end. Which other variations of this knot, say with only one horizontal loop called a slip-knot is often used to tie down a lot of objects. The original design for the hangman’s knot required it to have six to eight horizontal wraps, but urban legend says it should have thirteen horizontal wraps. Which dated back to be a false legend because any more than eight wraps in the knot would cause it to become sloppy and defeat the original purpose of the knot.
The knot when made with a large enough diameter rope creates a noose. The wraps create a large cylinder mass right above the loop. When placed around the condemned’s neck the noose is usually putt behind the left ear. This knot was designed so that when the person being hanged fell, the knot would deliver a striking blow to the back of the head causing it to snap the fourth and fifth vertebrae in the spinal cord.
Causing immediate paralysis and loss of consciousness. A very brutal form of execution.
The hanging method of the death penalty has been used for hundreds of years. Mostly dates back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They would have public gatherings and hang people from a devise called the gallows which is a large square frame usually with a deck platform for the condemned to stand on. These gallows were often built side by side, or even connected for multiple hangings. The hanging death penalty is still used to this day even in the United States. Washington and New Hampshire are two of the states that have it as an option for a convict. If no options of the death sentence are presented the convict has the option to choose this method of execution. As history has dated back many common modern day misdemeanors were mandatory hangings. Any thing from :gambling, murder, using obscene language, being rude to females, rape, robbery, arson, aiding in a slaves escape, talking back to a white man and touching a female were all hangable offenses. These offenses made it very easy for white supremacy leaders to charge African American slaves with ridiculous crimes, but often the crimes were not even committed by the black man at all. The white suprmecy mob would hold a false trial and use there own judgment. I believe these laws were an excuse during the time just to hang black slaves, because you never hear of a white man from these times being hung for using obscene language
The noose for many people is a racist symbol of life years ago. It is a cowardly reminder of what it used to stand for and what it was used for. Col. John lynch gave the noose such a derogatory meaning by holding trials in his front yard and sentencing the convicted to be hung. After there sentencing the condemned was hung in his back yard, which brought forth the term lynching. This period of lynching lasted for five decades, during the time of the reconstruction and great depression era. Huge mobs were formed called lynching mobs, they would steal black prisoners from the local jails and hang them. These were not just normal hangings, the prisoners would be tortured, burned, and shot thousands of times. This Southern mobs were the main people carrying out these public lynchings. Even though lynching of African American men, women, and children has been abolished, White supremacy believers still use the hangman’s knot as a symbol to commit hate crimes. Many recent current events are a prime example of this. I was Watching the news recently and saw stories such as the Jena six, hanging noose found at Maryland College, and the Columbia university professor. These cases are very recent and spark a lot of controversy with the public.
I never paid too much attention to the recent hate crimes, actually I didn’t even know about them. I have been reading articles about the Jena six and it is a really deep subject. I can relate somewhat to this story because my school had a tree in a courtyard that all of the white students sat under. Most of the black students in my school went to the gym to play basketball; however there was never any racial incidents or hate crimes committed about this tree. In Jena, Louisiana there was a racial conflict where three white students hung lynching nooses from the tree in the courtyard. The nooses were later removed by some of the schools superintendents. Repercussions of this incident were a fight between six African American teenagers and a white male at a party, when the white boy cut in line to get into the party. The Jena six was charged for the actions at a party where the fight took place. This incident took place last December. The case went on and kept building with some of the students that was in the fight. The incident happened at a Convenience store where two African American males had a shotgun pulled on them. The boys wrestled the gun free and police arrested. This incident in Jena Louisiana was a small prank that turned out a huge racial hate crime viewable all over the media. I grew up in the country and went to a high school where racism caused a lot of fights, and I believe neither the actions of the white, and/or black males were morally right. I cant write a correct opinion of this case, simply because I’m not from there, and I don’t know the people that were involved In these incidents, but if this case was in my home town it would cause a lot of conflict between the students.
I have also looked at another case about a noose being tied to the door of a Columbia university professors office. Police are still investigating who is responsible for leaving it hanging from her door. I think this was a cowardly move on whoever placed this noose on her door. She challenged the individual who did it by calling it a cowardly move. She also said she would not be fazed by it. There was another case where a noose was found on a Maryland campus outside of a black cultural center. The FBI is involved and they are investigating it. They seem to think the case is related to the Louisiana Jena six case I mentioned earlier. I found one short article on the internet about military member who was in the coastguard. This person was on ship and had his sea bags searched, when the search was over they found two small nooses tied in black parachute cord in the bottom of his sea bag. This member of the coastguard was on float at the time the nooses were found. I don’t believe there is any excuse for this act of improper military procedure.
I think these cases everyone is hearing about in the news are cases of immaturity. The victims of these hate crimes did nothing to deserve this kind of disrespect brought on by these nooses. The people that left these hangman’s nooses for them to find have no respect for the African American race, or knowledge of there races history. typing this paper I have learned a lot more about the noose and how it is still affecting many people today. the hangman’s noose when tied and left dangling for someone else to find is not a funny gesture. It is a hateful act that is disrespectful to the African American race. I have also learned if a object like a noose is hanging around, I should have the initiative to take it down before someone gets offended. After writing this I think I have found out enough information about nooses. My opinion of nooses now as stands is that the same as the swastika, it has nothing to do with me or my ancestors so I should just leave it alone. They are both a symbol of racial hatred. Today it is being used to intimidate and put fear within the African American race, by what it used to be used for. It is a sign of derogation of the heart and soul within human beings. Most recently it has been used for hate crimes as a reminder that the past is real. Even though this is a true fact, people need to grow up and realize there is more to life than living it to scare African Americans by showing symbols in random places, prank or not.