HISTORY

Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Voltaire

Lynchings are defined as extra-judicial killings, often, but not always, perpetrated by a mob of more than three people, and in the case of spectacle lynchings witnessed by crowds in their thousands, including women and children. Victims were either hanged or shot; in many instances drowned, asphyxiated, beaten to death, tortured, burned alive, stabbed, and dismembered. Souvenirs were also collected - shards of rope or the charred remains of teeth, bones, and body parts - and photographs taken, sold as postcards, and sent through the mail as keepsakes. 


In the vast majority of cases the victims had been accused of rape or murder, had sought economic or social independence, or had violated the unwritten caste system that appeared after Reconstruction and through the Jim Crow era and beyond. Whatever the perceived offense, the victims were viewed as expendable, and the physical threat and actual violence against them facilitated the existing power structure. Racial terror lynchings in particular gave explicit agency to white supremacy and the entrenched culture of violence that persists to this day.

The Tuskegee Institute has compiled data on 4,743 lynchings between 1882 and 1968 across 42 states, though the actual number is likely to be higher, preceding 1882 and occurring later than 1968. Over the years, thousands of lynchings and racial murders have gone unreported, while many victims went missing. And while individuals of various ethnicities and racial backgrounds were killed, the overwhelming majority were African-American victims of racial terror lynchings.