Nearly 4,000 black men were lynched in the South prior to the civil rights movement, hundreds more than was previously thought, according to a new report released today by the Equal Justice Initiativeon lynching in America.
“EJI has documented 3,959 lynchings of black people in twelve Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, which is at least 700 more lynchings in these states than previously reported,” the report claims.
The report includes an inventory of the nearly 4,000 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in the 12 most active lynching states in America — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia — which was compiled after five years of research and 160 visits to sites around the South, the New York Times reported.
The report also notes that some southern states — such as Florida, Alabama and Georgia — had dramatically higher numbers of lynchings than others.
What exactly constitutes a “lynching” has been the subject of much debate among scholars. The EJI report defines lynchings as acts of terrorism meant to instill fear in African-Americans, which distinguishes them from hangings and mob violence, which were crude punishments meant as forms of frontier justice.
Unlike past lists, the EJI’s inventory of terror lynchings also includes African-Americans who were killed in massacres, such as occurred in Arkansas in 1919 and in Louisiana in 1887, according to the Times.
The authors hope to spark a national conversation about the suffering created by racial terror — a conversation they feel is necessary to achieving real racial justice in America.
“Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” the Equal Justice Initiative’s founder, Bryan Stevenson, told the Times.
To emphasise this point, the organisation plans to erect monuments around the South to mark the various points where lynchings are believed to have occurred.
“What people don’t realise here is just how many there were, and how close,” Professor E.M. Beck of the University of Georgia (who compiled his own inventory of lynchings in 1995) told the Times. “Places they drive by every day.”
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