A new report released by the Equal Justice Initiative reveals the almost 4,000 names of Black people lynched in Jim Crow South between 1877 and 1950 — a 73-year block of “racial terror lynchings” that the initiative hopes to bring to light, forcing people to analyze the country in a more nuanced way.
The report — the result of five years of research and 160 visits to lynching sites in the nation’s South — documents lynchings in 12 Southern states and compiles an inventory of 3,959 victims. Bryan Stevenson, the founder of EJI in Montgomery, Ala., told the New York Times that the report is intended to “force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way.”
“Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Mr. Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work.
The report is just one phase of a larger project Stevenson has been working on to honor the victims. Eventually, Stevenson and his team will select lynching sites where they plan to erect markers and memorials. That’s a phase Stevenson knows will rub many the wrong way.
From the New York Times:
One phase involved the erection of historical markers about the extensive slave markets in Montgomery. The city and state governments were not welcoming of the markers, despite the abundance of Civil War and civil rights movement memorials in Montgomery, but Mr. Stevenson is planning to do the same thing elsewhere.
Around the country, there are only a few markers noting the sites of lynchings. In several of those places, like Newnan, Ga., attempts to erect markers were met with local resistance. But in most places, no one has tried to put up a marker.
In all, the new report reveals about 700 more names than other reports that tallied Southern lynchings.
The EJI report, which specifies the lynchings as acts of “racial terror” carried out not for “administering popular justice,” but for the executing of people for “violating the racial hierarchy,” also produces some surprising numbers about lynchings per state. According to EJI:
We also distinguish “terror lynchings” from racial violence and hate crimes that were prosecuted as criminal acts. Although criminal prosecution for hate crimes was rare during the period we examine, such prosecutions ameliorated those acts of violence and racial animus. The lynchings we document were acts of terrorism because these murders were carried out with impunity, sometimes in broad daylight, often “on the courthouse lawn.” These lynchings were not “frontier justice,” because they generally took place in communities where there was a functioning criminal justice system that was deemed too good for African Americans. Terror lynchings were horrific acts of violence whose perpetrators were never held accountable. Indeed, some “public spectacle lynchings” were attended by the entire white community and conducted as celebratory acts of racial control and domination.
Georgia had the most lynchings (586) during the 73-year period, with Mississippi coming in at a close second with 10 less.
Florida had the highest rate of lynchings per capita, the report states.
Click here to read the entire report.