Lynchings in America Essay
Recently, an L.A. Times article (dated 2/13/00) reviewed a new book entitled “Without Sanctuary”, a collection of photographs from lynchings throughout America. During the course of the article, the author, Benjamin Schwarz, outlined some very interesting and disturbing facts related to this gruesome act of violence:
Between 1882 and 1930, more than 3,000 people were lynched in the U.S., with approximately 80% of them taking place in the South. Though most people think only African Americans were victims of lynchings, during those years, about 25% were white. Data indicates that mobs in the West lynched 447 whites and 38 blacks; in the Midwest there were 181 white victims and 79 black; and in the South, people lynched 291 whites and 2,462 African Americans.
Though most people believe lynchings were just the manifestation of racial hatred, the author indicates that 20% of Southern lynching victims were killed by mobs of their own race. In addition, other societies such as Ancient Rome and Greece, Germany, China, Nigeria, and East Africa lynched their own. It is for this reason that Mr. Schwarz believes lynchings cannot be explained only in terms of racism and paranoid “white psyche”. To find the true reason, we must consider a different point of view.
According to Mr. Schwarz, in the late 19th century, there arose in the South a large proportion of transient black men who, as their labor became expendable in an increasingly industrial and commercial economy, adopted a life of crime. In the article, Mr. Schwarz writes, “There, loosened from the traditional controls of the black family and community, many led a roaming, reckless and often violent existence.” The theory goes, as these African American men moved from city to city, they became easy targets for Southern whites (and some blacks) who took it upon themselves to “punish” lawless citizens.To support his theory, Mr. Schwarz refers to data that shows “Most lynchings