A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America. "They put him to death by hanging him on a tree." Acts 10:39 The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk. Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and "black death," the cross symbolizes divine power and "black life" God overcoming the power of sin and death. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era. In a work that spans social history, theology, and cultural studies, Cone explores the message of the spirituals and the power of the blues; the passion and of Emmet Till and the engaged vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.; he invokes the spirits of Billie Holliday and Langston Hughes, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ida B. Well, and the witness of black artists, writers, preachers, and fighters for justice. And he remembers the victims, especially the 5,000 who perished during the lynching period. Through their witness he contemplates the greatest challenge of any Christian theology to explain how life can be made meaningful in the face of death and injustice.
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Based on previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department documents, extensive interviews with many of the surviving principals involved in the case, and a variety of newspaper accounts, Smead meticulously reconstructs the full story of one of the last lynchings in America, detailing a grim, dramatic, but nearly forgotten episode from the Civil Rights era. In 1959, a white mob in Poplarville, Mississippi abducted a young black man named Mack Charles Parker--recently charged with the rape of a white woman--from his jail cell, beat him, carried him across state lines, finally shot him, and left his body in the Pearl River. A massive FBI investigation ensued, and two grand juries met to investigate the lynching, yet no arrests were ever made. Smead presents a vivid picture of a small Southern town gripped by racism and distrust of federal authority, and describes the travesty of justice that followed in the wake of the lynching. Ultimately revealing more than an account of a single lynching, he offers what he calls "a glimpse at the tidal forces at work in the South on the eve of the civil rights revolution."
In 1916, in front of a crowd of ten to fifteen thousand cheering spectators watched as seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington, a retarded black boy, was publicly tortured, lynched, and burned on the town square of Waco, Texas. He had been accused and convicted in a kangaroo court for the rape and murder of a white woman. The city’s mayor and police chief watched Washington’s torture and murder and did nothing. Nearby, a professional photographer took pictures to sell as mementos of that day. The stark story and gory pictures were soon printed in The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the fledgling NAACP, as part of that organization’s campaign for antilynching legislation. Even in the vast bloodbath of lynchings that washed across the South and Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Waco lynching stood out. The NAACP assigned a young white woman, Elisabeth Freeman, to travel to Waco to investigate, and report back. The evidence she gathered and gave to W. E. B. Du Bois provided grist for the efforts of the NAACP to raise national consciousness of the atrocities being committed and to raise funds to lobby antilynching legislation as well. In the summer of 1916, three disparate forces - a vibrant, growing city bursting with optimism on the blackland prairie of Central Texas, a young woman already tempered in the frontline battles for woman’s suffrage, and a very small organization of grimly determined “progressives” in New York City - collided with each other, with consequences no one could have foreseen. They were brought together irrevocably by the prolonged torture and public murder of Jesse Washington - the atrocity that became known as the Waco Horror. Drawing on extensive research in the national files of the NAACP, local newspapers and archives, and interviews with the descendants of participants in the events of that day, Patricia Bernstein has reconstructed the details of not only the crime but also its aftermath. She has charted the ways the story affected the development of the NAACP and especially the eventual success of its antilynching campaign. She searches for answers to the questions of how participating in such violence affected the lives of the mob leaders, the city officials who stood by passively, and the community that found itself capable of such abject behavior.
WINNER OF THE SOUTHERN BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR NONFICTION • “A landmark work of unflinching scholarship.”—The New York Times This extraordinary account of lynching in America, by acclaimed civil rights historian Philip Dray, shines a clear, bright light on American history’s darkest stain—illuminating its causes, perpetrators, apologists, and victims. Philip Dray also tells the story of the men and women who led the long and difficult fight to expose and eradicate lynching, including Ida B. Wells, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and W.E.B. Du Bois. If lynching is emblematic of what is worst about America, their fight may stand for what is best: the commitment to justice and fairness and the conviction that one individual’s sense of right can suffice to defy the gravest of wrongs. This landmark book follows the trajectory of both forces over American history—and makes lynching’s legacy belong to us all. Praise for At the Hands of Persons Unknown “In this history of lynching in the post-Reconstruction South—the most comprehensive of its kind—the author has written what amounts to a Black Book of American race relations.”—The New Yorker “A powerfully written, admirably perceptive synthesis of the vast literature on lynching. It is the most comprehensive social history of this shameful subject in almost seventy years and should be recognized as a major addition to the bibliography of American race relations.”—David Levering Lewis “An important and courageous book, well written, meticulously researched, and carefully argued.”—The Boston Globe “You don’t really know what lynching was until you read Dray’s ghastly accounts of public butchery and official complicity.”—Time
The New York Times bestselling author of The Kennedy Women chronicles the powerful and spellbinding true story of a brutal race-based killing in 1981 and subsequent trials that undid one of the most pernicious organizations in American history—the Ku Klux Klan. On a Friday night in March 1981 Henry Hays and James Knowles scoured the streets of Mobile in their car, hunting for a black man. The young men were members of Klavern 900 of the United Klans of America. They were seeking to retaliate after a largely black jury could not reach a verdict in a trial involving a black man accused of the murder of a white man. The two Klansmen found nineteen-year-old Michael Donald walking home alone. Hays and Knowles abducted him, beat him, cut his throat, and left his body hanging from a tree branch in a racially mixed residential neighborhood. Arrested, charged, and convicted, Hays was sentenced to death—the first time in more than half a century that the state of Alabama sentenced a white man to death for killing a black man. On behalf of Michael’s grieving mother, Morris Dees, the legendary civil rights lawyer and cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a civil suit against the members of the local Klan unit involved and the UKA, the largest Klan organization. Charging them with conspiracy, Dees put the Klan on trial, resulting in a verdict that would level a deadly blow to its organization. Based on numerous interviews and extensive archival research, The Lynching brings to life two dramatic trials, during which the Alabama Klan’s motives and philosophy were exposed for the evil they represent. In addition to telling a gripping and consequential story, Laurence Leamer chronicles the KKK and its activities in the second half the twentieth century, and illuminates its lingering effect on race relations in America today. The Lynching includes sixteen pages of black-and-white photographs.
On January 20, 1942, black oil mill worker Cleo Wright assaulted a white woman in her home and nearly killed the first police officer who tried to arrest him. An angry mob then hauled Wright out of jail and dragged him through the streets of Sikeston, Missouri, before burning him alive. Wright's death was, unfortunately, not unique in American history, but what his death meant in the larger context of life in the United States in the twentieth-century is an important and compelling story. After the lynching, the U.S. Justice Department was forced to become involved in civil rights concerns for the first time, provoking a national reaction to violence on the home front at a time when the country was battling for democracy in Europe. Dominic Capeci unravels the tragic story of Wright's life on several stages, showing how these acts of violence were indicative not only of racial tension but the clash of the traditional and the modern brought about by the war. Capeci draws from a wide range of archival sources and personal interviews with the participants and spectators to draw vivid portraits of Wright, his victims, law-enforcement officials, and members of the lynch mob. He places Wright in the larger context of southern racial violence and shows the significance of his death in local, state, and national history during the most important crisis of the twentieth-century.
Uses excerpts from newspapers and editorials and accounts of the murder and trial to examine the lynching of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, in a volume which also contains selections from poems, songs, interviews, essays, and memoirs relating to the incident.
I wanted to give you a little background information as to what brought about The Lynching Series. I've always had a love for telling stories through poetry. At the time I started writing Volume One of the Lynching Series. I did't actually know it was going to be a series. It was during the time of Trayvon Martin's trial that I first was inspired to write. Once I started writing I was pulled in so many different directions due to the fact African Americans have such a rich and unfortunate history in this subject. Once I started paying close attention to some of the things that were being said, it was as if I had magically been transported to the segregated south in the 1950's. It was that bad. Needless to say being put in this state of mind brought the realization to the forefront that racism still exist. African American's have been unjustifiably murdered/lynched for years in America and the villian is never tried or a court of law allows him to walk free. I wanted to retell or shall I say capture the essence of a few stories old and new regarding this ongoing issue that is faced in the black community. What I wasn't prepared for is the rapid succession of murders/lynchings that would take place following Trayvon and Ramarley's deaths. Hence creating Volume One of The Lynchings Series.
A white man has been lynched two months before twenty-three-year-old Donald Gambell returns to his New Jersey hometown. As the first black member of the police force, Gambell learns the routines of his new work—the traffic stops and domestic quarrels, the bullying and bragging—from his partner Frank Butras, who refuses to discuss the murder that has left the town shaken. For Gambell, life near his father and sister is familiar in both its comforts and confusions, but his home has changed in ways he finds difficult to understand.