The Version of Lynching has Changed

The definition of lynching is, a way to murder a person by tying a rope around their neck and hanging them from a tree. This usually done by a group of people and serves as way to intimidate an inferior group. Lynching occurred a lot more in the South rather than the North, but that did mean lynching did not occur throughout the United States. Many White Americans that were a part of the Ku Klux Klan, would hold lynch meetings and kidnapped African Americans and hang them at night in a public area, so by day time people would walk by and see yet another African American person hanging from a tree, but there have been times where a White American would be lynched because they would help or be sided with African Americans.

I chose the Historical Approach to help me connect the works I have chosen that support this topic.

In Jason Carney’s America’s Pastime, describes some of the true lynching that has happened in American history like the lynching of Mary Turner, an African American woman who was lynched for protesting her husband’s lynching.

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She was eight months pregnant, hanged upside down, and cut open by her pregnant stomach and her unborn child being killed it also. “This is America’s truth, timeless, inescapable” (pp. 52), expresses the United States sad history that some White Americans either refuse to believe or believe that African Americans have to “move on” from. Truthfully this part of history should not be forgotten because, although lynching may not happen anymore, there are other ways to murder an African American without any consequence being made.

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Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit is about the many lynching that occurred in the deep South such as New Orleans, Louisiana. The song was written first as a poem by Abel Meeropol in 1937, and later Holiday was asked to sing and record it. Meeropol was influenced to write Strange Fruit by a picture of a lynching he saw one day. In the song the lines “Southern trees bear strange fruit” (0:20) and “strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree” (0:54), where the “strange fruit” are the African American people who were lynched and burned afterwards. When I first heard of the song, I did not think that the “strange fruit” would be the many African Americans who have been lynched, but actual fruit that were grown and fertilized with the blood of African Americans that would drip down into the soil of the trees, that is why the fruit taste bitter. Throughout the years the song has stayed popular and has been covered and sampled by many artists such as Nina Simone, Diana Ross and Kanye West. The first time I heard the song was when I heard it as an eerie background sample on Kanye West’s “Blood on the Leaves.” After I heard the song I searched for the original and learned about the origins of the song and the reasoning of it being made.

People in south were so immune to the lynching that it became a way to market racism. “American postcard portraits of lynching.” White Americans in the south would send postcards of lynching to their families as if they were Christmas cards. Lynching became a social norm in White southern society, but for African Americans it was a reality that was a constant nightmare. I remember having to learn about the American lynching in my United States history class in high school. Luckily, I had an African American teacher that taught history from inside and outside of the textbook. It was important especially in a school with predominantly black students to learn about their history. In a school where most of the teachers are White, African American history would most likely not be taught because it is not covered in the textbooks.

As we know history has a habit of repeating itself and although lynching is not being done anymore, racists American have found other ways to take the lives of African Americans. Most of the time it is in the hands of a police officer. An African American male is more likely to die either from the same race through gang affiliation or by a police officer and be sent to prison. “Lynch mobs ain’t dead. They have become inalienable scales of justice” (p.54), points out that there are racists people in the system that are willing to anything to keep black men from having their freedom, and if that does not help killing an innocent unarmed teenager and then more deaths following suit. I questioned myself again as I thought when I read America’s Pastime, who are the real monsters, African Americans as society portrays them to be or White Americans who commit these unjust crimes and get away with it?

In No Country for Black Boys by Joy Priest starts “when walking while black from a 7-Eleven,” (p.234) this describes the murder of Trayvon Martin, a sixteen year old African American who was gunned down by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Trayvon Martin was walking to the local corner store and bought an Arizona and a pack of Skittles. The shooter, George Zimmerman was sent to trial and was charged for murder but was found not guilty. The shooting of Trayvon Martin quickly spread all over every media platform and with the verdict being not guilty lead to a hue uproar in the Black community. When I read this poem, I remembered the event being all over the news and people were protesting wanting justice for Martin’s death. High school students were wearing hoodies and bringing a bottle of Arizona and a pack of Skittles to class and the discussions on what others thought about the situation. Now, Trayvon Martin was not the only one to subjugated to be murdered unjustly, there was Emmett Till to Rodney King then Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown just to name a few, were murdered and did not have any justice for their deaths, these murders were all except Emmett Till committed in the hands of armed police officers who had their stereotypical bias on black men. “i am always there. I pratol. I follow dark skin in a hoodie…” explains the literal situation that Zimmerman followed Martin because of his bias curiosity, but I thought of it as how racists Americans will find anything to keep anyone with dark skin beneath them.

Is This a History of Air? by, E. Ethelbert Miller compares the social issues today with the history of lynching and how things have not changed. The short poem has a big message and points out the error that the United States has failed to fix throughout history. The poem starts ““I can’t breathe.” he said.” Miller in the first line was referring to the death of Eric Garner, an African American man who died by a New York police officer on July 17, 2014. Garner was being arrested for stealing a pack of cigarettes, the police officer restrained garner to the ground in a choke hold and lead Garner to yell and plead that he could not breathe. Garner ended up dying by suffocation. The poem then ends with “only the absence of trees and rope. The swaying of history over another black body.” This expresses the fact although Garner was not lynched, his life was taken away from him, and after four years the officer is now facing time for killing Garner. This poem shows that no matter the time period there will always be a Black man killed for being black.

Using the historical approach has helped me connect and understand the context of these works with the history that is often misinformed, but with writers that use their talent to express and inform the social injustice that the United States has failed to do. The history of the United States is often expressed as either American history and African American history and so on. Most of the time the history being taught is of only of the success that has been accomplished, while it is considered to big the biggest mistake in American history and mostly never told. African Americans and other supporters of the community have worked hard to search what the system has tried to hide, and in opinion is unfair to do. African American history is a part of American history and although it is not the prettiest, it has happened and as Americans everyone should learn about it and find ways to improve it. The more history that is found about the history of African Americans the more it should be told and should not be only subjected to African American to learn, but to everyone because it does affect everyone that is American.

Works Cited

  1. Carney, Jason. “America’s Pastime (After the crimes of our Forefathers)” Black/ African
  2. American Literature II, compiled by MA Johnson, Sierra College, 2018, pp. 52-54.
  3. Holiday, Billie. “ Strange Fruit.” Youtube, 22 Dec, 2011,
  5. Miller, E. Ethelbert. “ Is This the History of Air?” Poets Respond to Violence Against
  6. African Americans, Warscapes, 21, Sep 2015,
  8. Priest, Joy. “ No Country for Black Boys.” African American Literature II, compiled by MA
  9. Johnson, Sierra College, 2018, p. 234.

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The Version of Lynching has Changed. (2022, Apr 15). Retrieved from

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