The Equal Justice Initiative released a major report yesterday on lynching as terrorism, titled Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. Like the EJI report from 2013 on the slave trade in Montgomery, this is a remarkable piece of applied history. It comprehensively documents almost 4000 lynchings of African-Americans as part of the terrorist campaign against blacks to enforce Jim Crow and white supremacy. Lifting from the EJI web page:
EJI researchers documented 3959 racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950 – at least 700 more lynchings of black people in these states than previously reported in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date.
Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation. Lynchings were violent and public events that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials.
Bryan Stevenson and the people at EJI do great work in so many areas. Just based on the summary document available online, there is a lot of important research and analysis in this report. In addition to the painstaking historical research involved, as a piece of history-based advocacy it makes a powerful case for how capital punishment and the criminal justice system more generally today are the direct consequence of the racial terrorism that was lynching. The report also advocates for public history and the use of historical markers to remember the victims and the fact of our own collective responsibilities, something about which Al and others on this blog have written about so effectively. The NYT also has an editorial on the report today that's worth a look.