In her Fire in a Canebrake, Laura Wexler describes an important event in mid-twentieth century American race relations, long ago relegated to the closet of American consciousness. In so doing, Wexler not only skillfully describes the event—the Moore’s Ford lynching of 1946—but incorporates it into our understanding of the present world and past by retaining the complexities of doubt and deception that surrounded the event when it occurred, and which still confound it in historical records. By skillfully navigating these currents of deceit, too, Wexler is not only able to portray them to the reader in full form, but also historicize this muddled record in the context of certain larger historical truths. In this fashion, and by refusing to cede to a desire for closure by drawing easy but inherently flawed conclusions regarding the individuals directly responsible for the 1946 lynching, Wexler demonstrates that she is more interested in a larger historical picture than the single event to which she dedicates her text. And, in so doing, she rebukes the doubts of those who question the importance of “bringing up” the lynching, lending powerful motivation and purpose to her writing that sustains her narrative, and the audience’s attention to it. This motivation and purpose are most evident in the quality of Wexler’s writing, made outstanding by her painstaking awareness throughout the text of, firstly, such fundamental things as setting and the introduction of characters, and, secondly, the overarching threads of, for instance, national and state politics, which set the larger stage for the story. In her text, Wexler briefly mentions a prominent figure in the NAACP, Walter White, noting his biting statements regarding the lynching a ... ... middle of paper ... ...lusions—not only in regards to who the lynchers were, but also in regards to the identities of the victims (230), and, worst of all, whether or not the issues central to the Moore’s Ford lynching have been settled, and are past. In these senses, conclusiveness about these issues encourages falseness, precludes justice, and makes the audience let go of things that ought not to be let go—and this, short of the lynching itself, is one of the greatest possible wrongs (244). It is by refusing to conclude, then, that Laura Wexler achieves the greatest success of her outstanding narrative, and is able to successfully navigates the lies and deception of a muddled historical event by adeptly presenting them in the context of larger historical truths. Work Cited Wexler, Laura. 2003. Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America. Scribner; 2004. Print
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Rawls Jr., Wendell . "AFTER 69 YEARS OF SILENCE, LYNCHING VICTIM IS CLEARED." New York Times 8 March 1982, Special to the New York Times n. pag. Print.
Interestingly, the book does not focus solely on the Georgia lynching, but delves into the actual study of the word lynching which was coined by legendary judge Charles B Lynch of Virginia to indicate extra-legal justice meted out to those in the frontier where the rule of law was largely absent. In fact, Wexler continues to analyse how the term lynching began to be used to describe mob violence in the 19th century, when the victim was deemed to have been guilty before being tried by due process in a court of law.
Laura Wexler’s Fire In a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America, is an spectacular book that depicts what, many refer to as the last mass lynching. The last mass lynching took place on July 25, 1946, located in Walton County, Georgia. On that day four black sharecroppers (Roger Malcom, Dorothy Malcom, George Dorsey and Mae Murray Dorsey) are brutally murdered by a group of white people. This book presents an epidemic, which has plagued this nation since it was established. Being African American, I know all too well the accounts presented in this book. One of the things I liked most about Fire in A Canebrake was that Wexler had different interpretations of the same events. One from a black point of view and the other from a white point of view. Unfortunately both led to no justice being served. Laura Wexler was
In the months following the Brown v. Board of Education decision C. Vann Woodward wrote a series of lectures that would provide the basis for one of the most historically significant pieces of nonfiction literature written in the 20th century. Originally, Woodward’s lectures were directed to a local and predominantly southern audience, but as his lectures matured into a comprehensive text they gained national recognition. In 1955 Woodward published the first version of The Strange Career of Jim Crow, a novel that would spark a fluid historical dialogue that would continue for the next twenty years. Woodward foresaw this possibility as he included in the first edition, “Since I am…dealing with a period of the past that has not been adequately investigated, and also with events of the present that have come too rapidly and recently to have been properly digested and understood, it is rather inevitable that I shall make some mistakes. I shall expect and hope to be corrected.” Over this time period Woodward released four separate editions, in chapter form, that modified, corrected, and responded to contemporary criticisms.
In the case of a lynching, the violence affects both the lynchman and the lynched. Other times the violence is psychological in nature and it is often indirect. No matter what, it poisons and corrodes everything and everyone, from the environment itself to the very self; the “i” within the environment. And it still does to this day. Jean Toomer’s short story, “Blood Burning Moon” and other works featured in Cane, visualizes depictions of violence through lynching and reveal the innermost madness of the psyche that is the product of racialized violence in the South.
The majority of Feimster’s work focuses on the extralegal violence used by white lynch mobs against black men and women in the south. At the center of advocacy against lynch-culture, was Ida B. Wells. Having been born a slave, Wells understood the racial implications of rape and lynching. Her political activity represented female independence and progress, but in a different way than Felton’s.
One of the things that was the most prominent after the Reconstruction and that takes a major role in “They Say”, was the lynching of African Americans. In “They Say”, Ida B. Wells must rush back home to Memphis, because of a riot, in which deputies were shot by negroes (Davidson, 124). After the shooting of these deputies, the negro men were put in jail, and later taken out by people, which then lynched them (Davidson, 125). Lynching of negroes was becoming so common, that people expected to see them in newspapers even if they took place in small towns (Davidson, 114). Blacks would be hanged and tortured for petty reasons that caused no one any real harm. Ida B. Wells did some research on lynching and found that many, were supposedly because of rapes to white women. However, Wells discovered that there were no rapes, rather the relationships were consensual, and it was just white men that tried to maintain the “purity” of their white women (Davidson, 155). Wells was an activist against lynching and she tried to show her views on her newspaper. She first realized that government did not take care of them and urged her fellow African Americans to leave town and try to settle in another place (Davidson, 150). She later wrote a speech against lynching and said that relationships between black men and white women were consensual not rape (Davidson, 156). Whites were outraged and even threaten to kill her. Although Wells’s accusation were true, she was not able to make any drastic
In Fire in a Canebrake, Laura Wexler describes a truly infamous event in mid-twentieth century American history. Wexler does not simply stop at describing the Moore’s Ford lynching of 1946 though, she goes so far as to incorporate it into our understanding of the world at the time by carefully unraveling the various complexities that surrounded the event itself. Furthermore, she is able to make sense of an otherwise very disorganized collection of accounts and shape it all together to reveal larger historical context. As the novel progresses, it is easy to see that Wexler is more interested in painting a broad historical picture for the reader than she is in merely outlining the horrible quadruple killing of George W. Dorsey, Mae Murray Dorsey,
Southern Horror s: Lynch Law in All Its Phases by Ida B. Wells took me on a journey through our nations violent past. This book voices how strong the practice of lynching is sewn into the fabric of America and expresses the elevated severity of this issue; she also includes pages of graphic stories detailing lynching in the South. Wells examined the many cases of lynching based on “rape of white women” and concluded that rape was just an excuse to shadow white’s real reasons for this type of execution. It was black’s economic progress that threatened white’s ideas about black inferiority. In the South Reconstruction laws often conflicted with real Southern racism. Before I give it to you straight, let me take you on a journey through Ida’s
Wells, Ida B. Southern Horrors. Lynch Law in All Its Phase. New York: New York Age Print, 1892. Print. 6.
Emancipated blacks, after the Civil War, continued to live in fear of lynching, a practice of vigilantism that was often based on false accusations. Lynching was not only a way for southern white men to exert racist “justice,” it was also a means of keeping women, white and black, under the control of a violent white male ideology. In response to the injustices of lynching, the anti-lynching movement was established—a campaign in which women played a key role. Ida B. Wells, a black teacher and journalist was at the forefront and early development of this movement. In 1892 Wells was one of the first news reporters to bring the truths of lynching to proper media attention. Her first articles appeared in The Free Speech and Headlight, a Memphis newspaper that she co-edited. She urged the black townspeople of Memphis to move west and to resist the coercive violence of lynching.  Her early articles were collected in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, a widely distributed pamphlet that exposed the innocence of many victims of lynching and attacked the leaders of white southern communities for allowing such atrocities.  In 1895 Wells published a larger investigative report, A Red Record, which exposed how false or contrived accusations of rape accompanied less than one third of the cases documented around 1892.  The statistics and literature of A Red Record denounced the dominant white male ideology behind lynching – the thought that white womanhood was in need of protection against black men. Wells challenged this notion as a concealed racist agenda that functioned to keep white men in power over blacks as well as white women. Jacqueline Jones Royster documents the...
Violent, racially motivated conflict dominated the South during the early 20th Century. Some of the most deadly, inhumane racial disturbances occurred amongst blacks during this time. In this paper I will discuss what we know today as “The Redwood Massacre”, a brutal event that took place in a rural area known as Levy County located in Rosewood, Florida, U.S. in January of 1923 that would cost innocent blacks their lives due to racial violence. Though blacks predominantly populated Rosewood, soon this would come to a change. The morning of January 1st, 1923 would be the beginning of something Rosewoods citizens never saw coming. The alleged beating and rape of Fannie Taylor, a young white woman married to James Taylor, who was a worker of the Cummer and Sons saw mill in Sumner, would not only spark the rise of a riot but with the news spreading rapidly lead to a history of events that would later come along. Fannie Taylor accused her attacker of being a black man who lived in a community nearby. White men believed this rumor to be true and believed it to be Jesse Hunter, who had been serving time for having carried a concealed weapon. They quickly set out on the hunt for Jesse Hunter, a convict who had just escaped from a crew that he’d worked for.