Essay on Lynching in the United States

Essay on Lynching in the United States

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In the case of lynching, discourses emerge from heated debates about the meaning of the practice; these debates change over the long history of lynching in America. At different times in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the term “lynching” has implied rather different historical acts amongst the community. It has also been used to specify acts that indicated a wide range of distinct motives, strategies, technologies and meanings, as well as a politically encumbered term. For many African Americans who grew up in the South in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the threat of lynching was mundane. Photographs and postcards illustrating the popular image of an angry white mob hanging a black man does not give the full historic background. The study of lynching in the United States through photographs helps sensitize racial tensions. Lynching, the act of terror meant to spread fear among blacks, served the broad social purpose of maintaining white supremacy in the economic, social and political spheres.
During the era of Civil War and Reconstruction, lynching marked a pivotal time in the United States. It was prevalent in the Midwest and West and abundant in the South. Lynching occurred for numerous reasons with shameless public displays being advertised in newspapers, which drew large crowds of white families and exposed a key role by providing contentious moral support. Prior to the Civil War, lynching was carried out in order to impose vigilante on their way of life and their white women. The first practitioners of lynching engaged what they described as “frontier justice”, with the main rationale being that the local and federal governmental bodies were of little use out in ‘those parts’. Compared to later occurrenc...


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...t the perseverance of past practices. In other words, there is complicity throughout the case of the lynching photographs. The act of lynching was far from a momentary phenomenon. “The motivation, organization and practice of mob killing were consistent with the most deeply held beliefs and social identities of the residents of the regions beyond the Alleghenies, where it held sway in the postbellum era.” People who executed lynching and those who did not agree with their actions were heavily invested in certain understandings of punishing violence as an implementation, in opposing views of “social status, culture and ethnicity as well as differences between men and women and adults and children.” Ensuring white domination and the recognition of what lynchers perceived as the difference between the races was the one difference that mattered the most for lynchers.

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