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Legacy of Lynching
Emmett Till and his mother
November 23, 2007

Please be advised that there are graphic still photos of lynchings in the slideshow below. While these photos are germane to the subject matter, some viewers may find these images disturbing.

In 2000 the newspapers were full of talk about an exhibit entitled "Without Sanctuary" on view in a New York gallery and later at the New York Historical Society. The cause of the talk? The exhibition was of lynching postcards — souvenirs of violence once popular items in the United States. Nooses are news these days. The now well-publicized incident in Jena, Louisiana is just one of a string of events — in states from New York to Minnesota. In 2006 James H. Cone spoke on the resonance of the symbols of lynching:

"...blacks and whites and other Americans who want to understand the meaning of the American experience need to remember lynching."

-James H. Cone, Watch Dr. Cone's speech "The Cross and the Lynching Tree" at Harvard Divinity School or read the article of the same title.

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Alabama's Tuskegee Institute maintained statistics on lynching in America from 1882 - 1968. Their total: 4,749. Lynchings peaked in the U.S. in the 1890s but some of the most highly publicized lynchings occurred in the 1930s - 1950s. Anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells-Barnett lobbied for decades to make lynching a federal crime. In 2005 the Senate formally apologized for failing to act on some 200 anti-lynching bills. The resolution states that the Senate "expresses the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity and the Constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States."

The work of historian and photographer Ken Gonzales-Day documents the lost history of lynching and reminds Americans that not all lynchings took place in the South and that Native Americans, Chinese immigrants, and Latinos were also victims of the lynch mob. His photograph of a "Hang Tree" in California begins the slideshow.

Published on November 23, 2007

References and Reading:
Geography of Hate
Explore this NEW YORK TIMES multimedia feature, depicting the prevalence of noose incidents throughout the United States since 2006.

An online version of the exhibit and book of the same title. Searching through America's past for the last 25 years, collector James Allen uncovered an extraordinary visual legacy: photographs and postcards taken as souvenirs at lynchings throughout America. Experience the images as a flash movie with narrative comments by James Allen, or as a gallery of photos which will grow to over 100 photos in coming weeks. Participate in a forum about the images, and contact us if you know of other similar postcards and photographs.

The Web site for the PBS film presents an interactive history of the horrors and trials of segregation from the end of the Civil War to the dawn of the modern Civil Rights Movement. The site includes interactive maps, oral histories and many interactive tools.

"The Murder of Emmett Till," AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
The Web site for the documentary by Stanley Nelson about Emmett Till contains Till family letters, a timeline, biographies memories of Americans of the event and analysis of the legacy of the Till murder.

Web site for the film that tells the story of the landmark song.

Ken Gonzales-Day's Web site contains information on his book LYNCHING IN THE WEST 1850-1935 as well as some of the photographs from his two projects on lynching: "Hang Trees" and "Erased Lynching."

"After the Jena 6 Case, a Spate of Noose Incidents"
Mike Nizza, THE NEW YORK TIMES, October 10, 2007. TIMES reporter and blogger Nizza rounds up and comments on recent noose-hanging stories. Hundreds of readers commented on the article and incidents.

Jacob Lawrence: Exploring Stories
Explore the words and work of painter Jacob Lawrence in this online exhibition from The Whitney Museum.

Lynchings in America
Documentary exhibit from the C.W. Post University Library.

Ida B. Wells Barnett House
Find out more about the crusading journalist.

"No Need for Lynching Now, CLEVELAND ADVOCATE, November 22, 1919"
The Library of Congress's collection "The African-American Experience in Ohio" contains a number of contemporary news accounts of lynchings.

Senate Apologizes for Not Enacting Anti-Lynching Law
ABC NEWS, June 13, 2005

"Another Negro Burned; Henry Smith Dies At The Stake. Drawn Through The Streets On A Car -- Tortured For Nearly An Hour With Hot Irons And Then Burned -- Awful Vengeance Of A Paris (Texas) Mob"
Text from a NEW YORK TIMES article of February 2, 1893, detailing the lynching of Henry Smith, accused of killing four-year-old Myrtle Vance.

Also This Week:

With the noose and the lynching tree entering the national discussion in the wake of recent news events, Bill Moyers interviews theologian James Cone about how these powerful images relate to the symbol of the cross and how they signify both tragedy and triumph.

Performer, activist, songwriter and scholar, Bernice Johnson Reagon has for over 40 years been singing, preaching and teaching traditional African American music and its cultural history.

"...blacks and whites and other Americans who want to understand the meaning of the American experience need to remember lynching."

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