Until the civil rights movement overturned systematic segregation, thousands of African Americans and other minorities were brutally maimed or killed by white vigilantes taking the law into their hands. Established law, which codified white supremacy, failed to protect the civil rights of black citizens. In the end, white segregation rested on open violence.
At the turn of the century, lynchings occurred every week, and most of the victims, denied the due process of courts, were innocent of the charges held against them. Some were not even accused of having committed a crime. Instead, whites invented the myth of the black rapist and portrayed lynching as a way to prevent the frequent rape of white women by black men. The real causes were economic competition, material greed, or simple terror to prevent blacks from wielding political influence. In some cases, consensual relationships between white women and black men provoked lynching. So-called miscegenation laws were at basis of all segregation legislation. They forbade blacks and whites to marry and have legitimate children. It was not until the mid-1960s that the Supreme Court abolished these laws as unconstitutional.
North Nashville community historian
a tense confrontation
the resolution of the standoff