James W. Clarke, strongly deliberates the lynching epidemic of the tensioned south during the late nineteenth century between the white supremacies and the newly emancipated blacks. Clarke explains that, “Before emancipation, lynching was primarily a frontier phenomenon that occurred when sheriffs, judges, juries, and jails were far removed by space and time from wrongdoing and a demand for swift retribution.”(271) Although lynching was not new to the south, it was becoming a new symbolization of racial oppression. Clarke also states that the targets for lynching were the freed black men as oppose to those who were still enslaved. Slaves were very much protected by the owners and seen as valuable investments. Although many argue that lynching was an act of punishment for wrongdoings, in actuality it was mostly used as an excuse for racial injustice. To add credibility to this argument, Clarke uses several graphs and charts from the Department of Records and Research of Tuskeegee, Southern newspapers, student of Fisk University narratives, recordings, photographs, and criminal cases, among more.
There were many recorded lynchings throughout the south and yet more continued. One man by the name of Sam Hose was lynched in Palmetto, Georgia for openly admitting to killing his employer over an argument on his wages. Hose was slowly burned to death after having his fingers, toes and tongue amputated. “Public interest was so aroused that special excursion trains were scheduled to carry curious spectators from Atlanta.” (269) another black man named Henry Lowery was also burned to death for shooting and killing his employer and the employer’s daughter due to an argument over wages he owed him. Clarke cites a reporter from the Memphis Press whom had attended the event and said that, “more than 500 persons stood by and looked on while the negro was slowly burned to a crisp.” (270) these were among the many lynchings that occurred throughout this era.
Clarke also cites Raper’s The Tragedy of Lynching as he researches the lynchings of the 1930’s and concludes that, “lynching was an angry response to difficult economic circumstances that produced frustration and aggravated competition between black and white labourers.” (272) Other theories consisted of whites feeling threatened by blacks and used aggression to defend themselves, but of course these are only theories and there still aren’t consistent explanations for these actions. After the restoration of stats’ rights in 1877 the violence only got worse and the Ku Klux Klan hoods were exchanged for police uniforms, making it a lot easier to seem threatening.
Those in fear now were the black males born after emancipations. “These black youngsters approached manhood treated as predators, beasts no white man needed a license to hunt.” Explains Clark (278) This article gave me great understanding of what the violence in the south between whites and blacks was really like. What really caught my attention were the burning of the black men and how white people would actually find curiosity out of someone else’s misery. The indifference of the law was also a main concern, since it is clear that the majority ruled. Also, knowing now that there is no biological difference between races makes me wonder if things would have been differently if the people had known that earlier.
Courtney from Study Moose
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