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Reconstruction Period Research Forum

Endangering lynching 1837-1946

Lynching of African-Anerican Women
Engendering lynching: Women activists and victims of lynchings and white mob violence in the United States, 1837--1946
by Chestnut, Trichita Marie, Ph.D., Howard University, 2009 , 409 pages; AAT 3344866
Abstract (Summary)
"Lynching remains one of the most disturbing atrocities in United States history. Lynching is a racially inspired killing that is performed in secret or in a public setting outside of the boundaries of the law. This dissertation begins with an assessment of the growth of lynching after the Civil War. It continues with a review of the failures federal officials and reformers faced when trying to thwart lynching on the local, state, regional, or national level.

This study confirms that the racial caste system of the South needed lynching to guarantee white male control. It outlines how swift, deadly retribution maintained racial, social, and gender superiority for white males. Activists and federal actions did not end lynching and this work highlights the anti-lynching vehicles developed by African-American mothers and wives. These women melded together court actions, letter writing campaigns, and speaking tours all over the world to confront the white supremacy that was cloaked in intimidation and violence.

Exiled from the south, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was the leading anti-lynching activist. Wells-Barnett investigated lynchings and published her findings on white brutality. Her evidence proved the majority of African-American men were lynched for minor offenses; and the question of the raping of white women accounted for less than one-third of the offenses. She fearlessly confronted the race-based killings that enmeshed the South.

This study reframes a seminal question. If lynching protected white women from African-American men, why were African-American women and children lynched? The lynching of women, erroneously overlooked by scholars, affirmed white male power. This data brings into focus intimidation as a pretext for violence against women. It also reveals how women who openly defied white male coercion, superiority, and sex-role mandates were lynched well into the twentieth century. This work reviews the alleged crimes that led to African-American women being lynched and outlines the mutilation of African-American female lynching victims. This dissertation ends with an exposé of the falsehoods that justified no persons being apprehended or convicted because lynching always came at the hands of persons unknown."

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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