History 17B Lecture 2 Race and Segregation Page 4


B.  Radical Violence

1.  Its many forms

riot.jpg (87441 bytes) As radical racism grew more prevalent in white thinking, white violence against blacks became more frequent.  Racial violence took a number of forms.  There was an epidemic of race riots, particularly in the 1890s, in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Wilmington.  The Ku-Klux-Klan was especially bold, torturing and murdering hundreds of blacks during and after Reconstruction.

2.  Lynchings

lynching1_sm.jpg (41520 bytes) lynching5.jpg (17843 bytes) lynching6.jpg (9238 bytes) lynching7.jpg (21458 bytes)

But lynchings were the most common act of violence against blacks - and though they were mostly in the South, even the North suffered from a rash of white vigilante violence such as in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

Having killed a white police officer, Zachariah Walker was forcibly taken from his jail cell by a white mob and burned alive.  Thousands came to visit the scene.  The opinion of the Coatesville Record, the local newspaper?

"For the sake of Coatesville it is well to say right here that the entire tragic scene, the shooting, the lynching and all the details thereto took place in East Fallowfield township outside the borders of the borough."

There was a public and ritual character to lynchings.  Rarely were they private and small scale affairs.  They took the form of public spectacles.  They were often advertised and had high attendance.  The Coatesville Record continues:

"Everything was quiet and orderly around the fire if such a thing can be said of a lynching.  There was no loud talking, no profanity, and the utmost deference shown to hundreds of women who came to the scene.  Men stepped back as the women came forward and led them to points of vantage where they could obtain the best view of the burning Negro."

The most disturbing aspect of all to the above picture is that the men are smiling.

lynching3.jpg (46002 bytes) Lynchings took place because of criminal accusation, or intimidation of blacks who were voting, or because someone was improving himself economically.  The allegation of rape was alleged in half the cases.  Lynchings reached epidemic proportions in the 1890s as there were about 138 lynchings nationwide per year.  Between 1889 and 1941, an estimated 3,811 lynchings took place in America.  NEVER was a federal anti-lynching bill successfully passed in Congress as Southern Congressman argued that lynchings were a necessity to protect the white women of the South.


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