I’ve been reading Ida B. Wells’ writings as well as a book called “Without Sanctuary.” This is very eye-opening stuff about Lynching in America. Just a few things “not taught in school.”
- Wells’ theory for why lynching was so widespread was the racist whites no longer “owned” the Black peoples’ bodies, as they did in slavery days, so the threat of lynching was used to “keep them in their place.”
- Victims of lynching who were accused of rape were innocent 99% of the time. But “Christians” could justify the lynching in their minds and hearts because they felt death was a suitable punishment for rape. Few leaders in the church opposed lynching or spoke out against it.
- Newspapers sensationalized lynching and played it up. A newspaper headline of “Negro to be lynched” is one of the sparks that fueled The Burning/Massacre of Tulsa in 1921.
- Hundreds of people came to watch and cheer lynchings, many bringing their children. It was a spectator sport.
- Photographs were taken, and postcards were produced on the spot! Equipment was brought to take photographs and produce postcards which then were sold as souvenirs or keepsakes and mailed to friends and family. Whites proudly posed next to dead bodies.
- Just plain race hatred was a reason for lynching. Just having black skin was reason enough for someone to decide on killing, and a crowd would join together and feed off each other’s hatred and turn it into a frenzy.
- Many whites were afraid of Blacks prospering, and afraid of losing what they had. They were also afraid that the tables would turn, and Blacks would rule over whites. Knowing how terribly Blacks had been treated during slavery, including rape of women slaves, they feared “payback.”
- Blacks were still seen as less than human by many whites. One postcard noted that they “had a barbeque” and showed a picture of a Black man who had been burned alive.
- Lynching was not just hanging, but also included other tortures such as having fingers cut off and ears cut off while still alive, pouring gasoline on a person and setting him on fire. Body parts and pieces of clothing were fought over by the crowd as souvenirs as well.
- If someone was hung by the neck, but the neck did not break, they would suffocate as they hung there.
- None of the whites were ever charged with murder. Police pretended not to know who instigated it.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on the subject of lynching.
Billie Holliday was “banned” from singing this song; but she sang it anyway. This was in the 1930’s USA.