Lynchings in America

856 WordsOct 2, 19994 Pages
Recently, an L.A. Times article (dated 2/13/00) reviewed a new book entitled "Without Sanctuary", a collection of photographs from lynchings throughout America. During the course of the article, the author, Benjamin Schwarz, outlined some very interesting and disturbing facts related to this gruesome act of violence: Between 1882 and 1930, more than 3,000 people were lynched in the U.S., with approximately 80% of them taking place in the South. Though most people think only African Americans were victims of lynchings, during those years, about 25% were white. Data indicates that mobs in the West lynched 447 whites and 38 blacks; in the Midwest there were 181 white victims and 79 black; and in the South, people lynched 291 whites and 2,462…show more content…
Du Bois is even quoted as having written about the emergence of "a class of black criminals who are a menace to both black and white . . . instead of petty stealing and vagrancy, we . . . have highway robbery, burglary, murder and rape." Though I tried my best to be objective when reading the L.A.Times Article, I found myself quickly becoming exasperated by Mr. Schwarz 's effort to "play both sides of the field". While he writes "It must be said that an indeterminate sizable number of lynching victims did not commit the crimes of which they were accused and, by definition, none was found guilty by properly constituted authorities (whose ability to carry out justice was suspect at best)", he also notes "Denying black criminality betrays a curiously rosy view of the effects of oppression." and "Looking at the photographs of the broken, burned and mutilated victims in "Without Sanctuary"--some of whom, themselves, undoubtedly committed atrocious crimes--the terrible truth, the only "explanation" of lynching, is that given half a chance, too many men will act brutally." To me, such an explanation does a great disservice to Black History. Even if we assume that Mr. Schwarz is correct in stating that lynchings increased as black crime rose in the South, his comments do not shed any light on the true reason for
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