Lynching has been on my mind a great deal these days. As we consider that unaddressed legacy of racial violence in our history, America is at a crossroads. White supremacists and Christian nationalists want us to forget our troubled and troubling history that could bring discomfort. Just to demystify this war on books, on history, on diversity, equity and inclusion and so-called critical race theory, the whole point of it all is to erase our memory and purge the historical record so that the neo-Jim Crow fascists may continue to commit these crimes for the purpose of maintaining straight-white-male-Christian supremacy.

History and the present are inextricably linked. Carolyn Bryant Donham - the white woman who accused Black teen Emmett Till of making sexual advances toward her, leading to his horrific lynching in Mississippi in 1955 - died at the age of 88 without facing justice. I do not believe in Hell, but if I did, I would most certainly conclude Donham was sent there with gasoline drawers, or drawls as the elders would say.

Emmett Till’s murder reminds me of “Strange Fruit” - that chilling song written by Abel Meeropol that Billie Holliday sang so well. Then there’s “Mississippi Goddam,” the Nina Simone song that captured the hot mess that was Mississippi in 1963, amid the murder of Medgar Evers, the violence against the Freedom Riders and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four little Black girls in Birmingham - also known as Bombingham - Alabama.

On May 19, 1918 - 105 years ago - a white Georgia mob lynched Mary Turner, a Black woman who was 8-months pregnant, for speaking out against the lynching of her husband the day before. The mob bound and tied Turner, doused her with gasoline and set her on fire, cut the baby out of her belly, stomped and killed the baby, and riddled Turner’s body with bullets.

And on May 31, 1921, the Black community of Greenwood, Oklahoma was decimated in the Tulsa Race Massacre. Hundreds of Black women, children and men were lynched, and today they are still unearthing the bodies secretly buried in mass graves.

Meanwhile, fast-forward to today, and we are told that white supremacist domestic terrorism is the greatest threat to national security. Of course, white supremacy has been the greatest threat to Black lives for over 400 years.

The Biden administration plans to combat antisemitism through understanding history, and examples such as the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank. Frank, an Atlanta pencil factory owner was falsely accused, prosecuted and convicted of murdering 13-year-old factory worker named Mary Phagan. A white lynchmob kidnapped Frank from a jail cell and hanged him.

This, as a series of public lynchings and circumstantial lynchings of Black people take place in the twenty-first century. In Mississippi, the decapitated remains of Rasheem Carter, 25 were found after he had complained to his mother that white men had been chasing him. Jordan Neely, an unhoused and traumatized young Black man, was choked to death by a White man in the New York City subway. His crime - being hungry and thirsty, with mental health challenges and in need of assistance. Many have cried out in mourning for Jordan Neely, and yet, his public lynching was celebrated by many. In a nation built on land theft, kidnapping and forced labor, White colonial settlers do what they do, and that is keep this game going. White supremacy always ends in death, and maintaining white supremacy invariably involves physical violence and the taking of life - to make an example of folks in ritual fashion.

There are two haunting images that capture how society reacts to the lynching of Black people in America. The first is a political cartoon published in Harper’s Weekly in 1876 on the eve of the presidential election. Titled, “In Self-Defense,” the cartoon depicts a white man, a former Confederate holding a smoking gun in one hand and a knife in the other, kneeling over a Black child he had just killed. The caption reads: SOUTHERN CHIV.: ‘Ef I hadn't-er killed you, you would hev growed up to rule me.’”

The cartoon was attacking the notion of Southern chivalry and the use of racial violence and lynchings to affirm White domination, and captured the White Southern fear of “Black rule” under the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

The second image is a photo of the lynching of Rubin Stacy, who was lynched on July 19, 1935 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for “threatening and frightening a white woman.” The photo shows Stacy’s corpse hanging from a tree, with cleanly-dressed White people, as if going to church, standing around the lynched man. Attention centers around the seven-year-old White girl who, with arms crossed, stares at Stacy and smiles. Why was she smiling? And what did she take from the experience?

At the time, lynchings were entertainment spectacles and excursions designed to keep Black people in their place and under White control. Tickets were sold, photos were taken and turned into postcards, and body parts were sliced up and kept as lovely souvenirs.

Meanwhile, as the Klan and vigilantes under Jim Crow meted out anti-Black violence in the streets, the legal, political and business interests did their part to render a civil death to Black people through voter disenfranchisement and imprisonment.

Kind of sounds like today, doesn’t it?

David A. Love, JD - Serves

BlackCommentator.com as Executive

Editor. He is a journalist, commentator,

human rights advocate, a Professor at

the Rutgers University School of

Communication and Information based in

Philadelphia, a contributor to Four

Hundred Souls: A Community History of

African America, 1619-2019, The

Washington Post, theGrio,

AtlantaBlackStar, The Progressive,

CNN.com, Morpheus, NewsWorks and

The Huffington Post. He also blogs at

davidalove.com. Contact Mr. Love and


Bookmark and Share

Bookmark and Share